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JOHN M. KELLY LIBRARY 






Donated by 

The Redemptorists of 
the Toronto Province 

from the Library Collection of 
Holy Redeemer College, Windsor 



University of 
St. Michael s College, Toronto 



SERMONS 
OF ST. BERNARD 

ON 

ADVENT ? CHRISTMAS 



INCLUDING THE FAMOUS TREATISE 
ON THE INCARNATION CALLED "MISSUS EST" 



Compiled and translated at St. Mary s Convent^ 
from the Edition (1508), in black-letter^ of 
St. Bernard s Sermons and Letters 

[CHIEFLY FOR CONVENTS] 
WITH INTRODUCTION 

BY THE 

RIGHT REV. J. C. HEDLEY, O.S.B. 

BISHOP OF NEWPORT 



R. & T. WASHBOURNE, LTD. 

i, 2 & 4 PATERNOSTER ROW, LONDON 
MANCHESTER : 74 BRIDGE ST. GLASGOW : 248 BUCHANAN ST. 

BENZIGER BROS. \ NEW YORK, CINCINNATI, CHICAGO 
1909 

[All rights resented 



H8LY REDEEME LIBRARY. WIJ$SOR 



HENRICUS G. S. BOWDEN, 

CENSOR DEPUTATUS. 

Imprimatur. 

EDM. CAN. SURMONT, 

VICARIUS GENERALIS. 

WESTMONASTERII, 

die 25 OctobriS) 1909. 





CONTENTS 



ADVENT 

I. SERMON ON ITS Six CIRCUMSTANCES 
II. SERMON ON THE WORDS TO ACHAZ, " ASK THEE 
A SIGN," ETC. 

II 

ON THE " MISSUS EST " 

I. PRAISES OF THE VIRGIN-MOTHER 
II. THE MISSION OF THE ANGEL - 

III. COLLOQUY OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN AND THE 

ANGEL - 

IV. THE ANNUNCIATION, AND THE BLESSED VIRGIN S 

CONSENT 

III 



PAGE 
I 



23 

33 

48 
60 



ON THE VIGIL OF OUR LORD S NATIVITY 

I. ON THE JOY His BIRTH SHOULD INSPIRE - 75 

II. ON THE MIRACULOUS NATURE OF THE NATIVITY 81 
III. ON THE DISPOSITIONS REQUIRED IN THOSE WHO 

CELEBRATE THE FEAST - - 89 



iv CONTENTS 

IV 
ON OUR LORD S NATIVITY 

PAGE 

I. THE FOUNTAINS OF THE SAVIOUR - 101 

II. THE THREE COMMINGLINGS - 108 

III. ON THE PLACE, TIME, AND OTHER CIRCUM 

STANCES - 115 

IV. ON THE SHEPHERDS FINDING OUR LORD - 122 
V. ON THE WORDS, " BLESSED BE THE GOD AND 

FATHER," ETC. - . 126 

V 
ON THE CIRCUMCISION - - 135 

VI 
ON THE HOLY NAME AND OTHER SCRIP- 

TURAL TITLES OF OUR LORD - - 141 

VII 

ON THE EPIPHANY 
I. ON " THE GOODNESS AND KINDNESS OF OUR 

SAVIOUR HATH APPEARED " - - 151 

II. " GO FORTH, YE DAUGHTERS OF JERUSALEM " 157 

III. ON THE GIFTS OF THE WISE MEN - - 161 



INTRODUCTION 



IT is a pleasure to write a few words of introduction 
to an admirable translation of some interesting 
" Sermons of St. Bernard " made by one of the 
Community of St. Mary s, York. The sermons are 
nineteen in number, and are all of them related to 
the mysteries of Advent and Christmas. Of the 
seven sermons, Z)0 Adventu Domini, printed in Dom 
Mabillon s edition of the saint s works, we have here 
the first two. Then follow the four homilies on 
the text Missus est, etc. This is the title that is 
generally given to these famous sermons, but the 
holy preacher himself intended them to be called 
De laudibus Virginis Matris, as we read in his letter 
to Peter the Deacon. Of the six discourses for the 
Vigil of Christmas, the translator has selected the 
first, the fourth, and the sixth. All the five sermons 
on Christmas Day are given. The volume ends 
with two on the Circumcision and three on the 
Epiphany. 

These sermons are fully and conscientiously trans 
lated. A few omissions have been made chiefly, 
it would seem, through sheer inability to present in 



vi INTRODUCTION 

an acceptable modern version all the devout and 
fanciful dealings of the holy Doctor with the text 
of the Scripture. St. Bernard knew St. Augustine 
well, and he had learnt this fashion of using Holy 
Scripture from him. St. Bernard s mind and heart 
were steeped in the Scriptures, and it comes natural 
to one to whom the text is so living and real to treat 
it as holding a lesson in every word and syllable. I 
have used the word " fanciful," but rather in the 
sense of imaginative fertility than of childish or 
mere poetic dreaminess. The Holy Spirit, as all 
Catholics believe, has a message for man in the Bible 
beneath and besides the letter. In general, it is the 
prerogative of the saints and doctors to discourse 
and reveal this mystical sense. This is the reason 
why the commentaries of holy men are so precious. 
For the exposition of a St. Augustine, a St. Gregory, 
or a St. Bernard is the expression of the interior 
illumination of a favoured soul, and it would be rash 
to doubt that such comments are, in a general sense, 
guided and ""inspired" by the Author of the 
Scripture Himself. If, then, the translator of these 
sermons has found some passages too " quaint " to 
be reproduced, still, there is a sufficient number left 
to make it useful to remind the reader that he is here 
listening to one of the princes of the contemplative 
life, and that he should rather try to follow the idea 
than to criticize. No one can read St. Bernard 
with any profit or satisfaction who does not heartily 
accept him as a mystical expert in Holy Scripture . 
In one or two places considerable liberty has been 
taken with the text of the sermons. We are in 
formed, in r egard to the sermon on the Circumcision 



INTRODUCTION vii 

(p. 135), that this sermon has been combined with 
one on the same subject in the saint s commentary 
on the Canticle of Canticles. As the earlier discourse 
touches on the Holy Name, and as it is not, perhaps, 
one of St. Bernard s most striking utterances, it was 
a temptation not to be resisted to have recourse to 
the well-known Fifteenth Sermon on the Canticles, 
and to attach to the first the famous passages in 
which the Holy Name is compared to Lux, Cibus, et 
Medicina. This truly Bernardine outburst presents 
great difficulties to the translator, if the spirit and 
rhythm of the original are to be reproduced. It will 
be seen that the present translation is not unworthy 
of the original. I may, however, be permitted to 
say that, in the thrilling passage where the miracle 
wrought by the Holy Name on the cripple at the 
Gate of the Temple is described, I miss the tanquam 
fulgur egrediens the comparison of Peter s utter 
ance of that Name to a flash of lightning. The fine 
oratorical point which ends that passage the 
healing of one cripple contrasted with the illumina 
tion of multitudes of blind is left out. This kind 
of shortcoming rarely occurs in these pages, and is 
only an example of the excessive difficulty of 
rendering the exact rhetorical turn of a very vivid 
Latin into corresponding English. 

St. Bernard s sermons were all delivered in the 
Chapter-house at Clairvaux. There can be no doubt 
that they were spoken in Latin, as we have them 
now. If the lay-brothers were present, they had to 
be content at the moment with picking up what 
they could, but we learn that at other times these 
discourses were repeated to the lay-brethren in 



viii IN TROD UCTION 

French, or in the Romance tongue which was the 
precursor of modern French. We have a specimen 
of translation which must be almost contemporary, 
and possibly by St. Bernard himself, in a Paris 
manuscript quoted by Mabillon. The version shows 
that even an illiterate may have caught much of 
the sense of the spoken Latin. For example, in the 
sermon for Advent, the passage beginning, " Fugite 
superbiam, fratres mei, quseso, multum fugite," 
begins in Romance, " Por Deu, chier Friere, fuyez 
orgoil, et forment lo fuyez." St. Bernard s Latin 
style was much admired by the Humanists, such as 
Henry of Valois and Erasmus. The latter very 
acute critic says he was a born preacher, spirited, 
pleasing, and moving. We must remember that up 
to his twentieth year he had an excellent training 
in scholarship and divinity at Chatillon. His 
reading in both sacred and profane literature must 
have been very wide. He is well acquainted with 
theology, as one can see, for example, in his sermons 
on the Canticles, especially in Sermons 80 and 
81, where he discourses on the image of God in 
the Word and in the soul of man, and on the 
simplicity of God, with a penetration not unworthy 
of St. Anselm. His knowledge of the Canon Law 
is shown in his most able treatise, addressed to 
Eugenius III., the fine book ^De Consider atione. 
It is true he never considered himself a student. 
He said that he learnt more from the " oaks and 
beeches " of the Cistercian solitude than from 
books or masters. What he thus learnt was the 
most precious part of what he has left us. But still, 
great Popes, like Alexander III. and Irmocent III., 



INTRODUCTION ix 

have given him the title of Doctor, a title conferred 
upon him in a more liturgical way by Pope Pius IX. 
At what date he was first called the " Mellifluous " 
Doctor is a little uncertain. Theophilus Raynauld, 
who wrote in the fifteenth century, seems to be the 
first who records that name, but it carried too happy 
a description of his spirit not to be promptly taken 
up. It was Nicholas Faber, the tutor of Louis XIII. , 
who called him the " Last of the Fathers." 

Those who cannot read the " Sermons of St. 
Bernard " in the original may be strongly recom 
mended to study them in this excellent translation. 
They will find the style, and even the matter, a little 
difficult. In a writer of the twelfth century there 
must be an idiom that is unfamiliar, and his subjects 
and his points will not be those of the books and 
preachers of our own times. But the reader will find 
in St. Bernard, as in all the Fathers, that steady, 
large, and almost unconscious exposition of Catholic 
faith in its widest sense, which the multiplication of 
religious books must always need as a corrective to 
limited views and one-sided enthusiasms. He will 
also, I do not doubt, appreciate the fire and piety 
of that great saint. The ardent devotion which 
marks every page of his sermons may not now be a 
novelty to Catholics, for a leader like St. Bernard 
makes his own spirit in this regard an inheritance of 
the whole Church, and we are all to a great extent 
thinking the devout thoughts and practising the 
elevations of the heart of which he gave the example. 
But it is always inspiring and stimulating to go to 
the fountain-head, and to study the very turns and 
expressions of such a master ; and his touching piety, 



x INTRODUCTION 

whenever he treats of the Word made flesh, or the 
Virgin-Mother, will always be more real to us and 
more edifying when we feel ourselves actually in his 
presence the presence of one who was at once so 
heroic in his sanctity, and so great an historical 
figure in the twelfth century. 

* J. C. H. 

November 5, 1909. 



I 
ADVENT 



SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 



SERMON I 

ON THE ADVENT OF OUR LORD AND ITS 
SIX CIRCUMSTANCES 

TO-DAY we celebrate the beginning of Advent. 

The name of this great annual commemoration is 
sufficiently familiar to us ; its meaning may not be 
so well known. 

When the unhappy children of Eve had aban 
doned the pursuit of things true and salutary, they 
gave themselves up to the search for those that are 
fleeting and perishable. To whom shall we liken 
the men of this generation, or to what shall we 
compare them, seeing they are unable to tear them 
selves from earthly and carnal consolations, or 
disentangle their minds from such trammels ? 
They resemble the shipwrecked who are in danger 
of being overwhelmed by the waters, and who may 
be seen catching eagerly at whatever they first 
grasp, how frail soever it may be. And if anyone 
strive to rescue them, they are wont to seize and drag 
him down with them, so that not infrequently the 
rescuer is involved with them in one common 
destruction. Thus the children of the world perish 
miserably while following after transitory things 

i 2 



4 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

and neglecting those which are solid and enduring, 
cleaving to which, they might save their souls. Of 
truth, not of vanity, it is said : " You shall know the 
truth, and the truth shall make you free." 1 

Do you, therefore, to whom as to little ones God 
has revealed things hidden from the wise and 
prudent, turn your thoughts with earnestness to 
those that are truly desirable, and diligently medi 
tate on this coming of our Lord. 2 Consider Who He 
is that comes, whence He comes, to whom He comes, 
for what end He comes, when He comes, and in 
what manner He comes. This is undoubtedly a 
most useful and praiseworthy curiosity, for the 
Church would not so devoutly celebrate the season 
of Advent if there were not some great mystery 
hidden therein. 

Wherefore, in the first place, let us with the 
Apostle consider in astonishment and admiration 
how great He is Who comes. According to the 
testimony of Gabriel, He is the Son of the Most 
High, and consequently a coequal with Him. Nor 
is it lawful to think that the Son of God is other 
than coequal with His Father. He is coequal in 
majesty ; He is coequal in dignity. Who will deny 
that the sons of princes are princes, and the sons of 
kings kings ? 

But how is it that of the Three Persons Whom we 
believe, and confess, and adore in the Most High 
Trinity, it was not the Father, nor the Holy Ghost, 
but the Son that became Man ? I imagine this was 
not without cause. But " who hath known the mind 
of the Lord ? Or who hath been his counsellor ?" 3 

1 St. John viii. 32. 2 St. Matt. xi. 25. 3 Rom. xi. 34. 



ADVENT 5 

Not without some most deep counsel of the 
Blessed Trinity was it decreed that the Son 
should become Incarnate. If we consider the cause 
of our exile, we may perchance be able to compre 
hend in some degree how fitting it was that our 
deliverance should be chiefly accomplished by the 
Son. 

Lucifer, who rose brightly as the morning star, 
because he attempted to usurp a similitude with 
the Most High, and " it was thought robbery in 
him to equal himself with God," an equality which 
was the Son s by right, was cast down from heaven 
and ruined ; for the Father was zealous for the 
glory of the Son, and seemed by this act to say : 
" Vengeance is mine, I will repay/ And instantly 
" I saw Satan as lightning falling from heaven." 1 

Dust and ashes, why art thou proud ? If God 
spared not pride in His angels, how much less will 
He tolerate it in thee, innate corruption ? Satan 
had committed no overt act, he had but consented 
to a thought of pride, yet in a moment, in the 
twinkling of an eye, he was irreparably rejected 
because, as the Evangelist says, " he stood not in 
the truth." 2 

Fly pride, my brethren, I most earnestly beseech 
you. " Pride is the beginning of all sin," 3 and 
how quickly did it darken and overshadow with 
eternal obscurity Lucifer, the most bright and 
beautiful of the heavenly spirits, and, from not only 
an angel, but the first of angels, transform him into 
a hideous devil ! Wherefore, envying man s happi- 

1 St. Luke x. 18. 2 St. John viii. 44. 

3 Ecclus. x. 15. 



6 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

ness, he brought forth in him the evil which he had 
conceived in himself by persuading man that if he 
should eat of the forbidden tree he would become 
as God, having a knowledge of good and evil. 
Wretch ! what dost thou promise, when thou 
knowest that the Son of God has the key of know 
ledge yea, and is Himself the " key of David, that 
shutteth and no man openeth " j 1 that " in him are 
hidden all the treasures of the wisdom and know 
ledge of God " ? 2 Wouldst thou, then, wickedly steal 
them away to give them to men ? 

You see, my brethren, how true is the sentence 
of our Lord, " The devil is a liar and the father of 
lies/ 3 He was a liar in saying, " I will be like 
unto the Most High," 4 and he was the father of lies 
when he breathed his spirit of falsity into man. 
" You will be as gods." 6 And wilt thou, man, 
" seeing the thief, run with him " ? 6 You have 
heard, my brethren, what has been read this night 
from Isaiah. The Prophet says to the Lord, " Thy 
princes are faithless, companions of thieves/ or, 
as another version has it, " disobedient companions 
of thieves/ 7 In truth, Adam and Eve were dis 
obedient companions of thieves, for, by the counsel 
of the serpent, or, rather, of the devil in the serpent, 
they tried to seize upon what belonged by birth 
right to the Son of God. Nor did the Father 
overlook the injury, for the Father loveth the Son. 
He immediately took revenge on that same man, 
and let His hand fall heavily on us all, " for in Adam 

1 Apoc. iii. 7. 2 Col. ii. 3. 3 St. John viii. 44. 

* Isa. xiv. 14. 5 Gen. iii. 5. 6 Ps. xlix. 18. 
7 Isa. i. 23. 



ADVENT 7 

all have sinned/ and in his sentence of condemna 
tion we have shared. 

What, then, did the Son do, seeing His Father so 
zealous for His glory, and for His sake sparing none 
of His creatures ? " Behold," He says, " on My 
account My Father has ruined His creatures : the 
first of the angels aspired to My throne of sove 
reignty, and had followers who believed in him ; and 
instantly My Father s zeal was heavily revenged on 
him, striking him and all his adherents with an 
incurable plague, with a dire chastisement. Man, 
too, attempted to steal from Me the knowledge 
which belongs to Me alone, and neither doth My 
Father show him mercy, nor doth His eye spare 
him. He had made two noble orders sharing His 
reason, capable of participating in His beatitude, 
angels and men ; but behold, on My account He 
hath ruined a multitude of His angels and the entire 
race of men. Therefore, that they may know that 
I love My Father, He shall receive back through 
Me what in a certain way He seems to have lost 
through Me. It is on my account this storm has 
arisen ; take me and cast me into the sea. 1 All 
are envious of Me ; behold I come, and will exhibit 
Myself to them in such a guise as that whosoever 
shall wish may become like to Me ; whatsoever I 
shall do they may imitate, so that their envy shall 
be made good and profitable to them." 

The angels, we know, sinned through malice, 
not through ignorance and frailty ; wherefore, as 
they were unwilling to repent, they must of neces 
sity perish, for the love of the Father and the 
1 Jonas i. 12. 



8 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

honour of the King demand judgment. For this 
cause He created men from the beginning, that 
they might fill those lost places, and repair the 
ruins of the heavenly Jerusalem. For He knew 
" the pride of Moab, that he is exceedingly proud/ 1 
and that his pride would never seek the remedy 
of repentance, nor, consequently, of pardon. After 
man s fall, however, He created no other creature 
in his place, thus intimating that man should yet 
be redeemed, and that he who had been supplanted 
by another s malice might still by another s charity 
be redeemed. 

Be it so, dear Lord, I beseech Thee. Be pleased 
to deliver me, for I am weak. Like Joseph of old, 
I was stolen away from my country, and here with 
out any fault was cast into a dungeon. Yet I am 
not wholly innocent, but innocent compared with 
him who seduced me. He deceived me with a 
lie : let the truth come, that falsehood may be dis 
covered, and that I may know the truth, and that 
the truth may make me free. But to gain the 
freedom I must renounce the falsehood when dis 
covered, and adhere to the known truth ; otherwise 
the temptation would not be human, nor the sin a 
human sin, but diabolical obstinacy. To persevere 
in evil is the act of the devil, and those who persevere 
in evil after his example deservedly perish with 
him. 

Behold, you have heard Who He is that comes ; 

consider now whence and to whom He comes. He 

comes from the heart of God the Father to the 

womb of a virgin mother ; He comes from the 

1 Isa. xvi. 6. 



ADVENT 9 

highest heaven to this low earth, that we whose 
conversation is now on earth may have Him for 
our most desirable companion. For where can it be 
well with us without Him, and where ill if He be pre 
sent ? " What have I in heaven, and besides Thee 
what do I desire upon earth ? Thou art the God 
of my heart and the God that is my portion for 
ever ";* and " though I should walk in the midst 
of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil," if only 
" thou art with me." 2 

But here I see that our Lord descends not only 
to earth, but even to hell ; not as one bound, but 
as free among the dead ; as light that shines in the 
darkness, " and the darkness did not comprehend 
it." Wherefore His soul was not left in hell, nor 
did His holy body on earth see corruption. For 
Christ " that descended is the same also that 
ascended . . . that he might fill all things " ; 3 " who 
went about doing good, and healing all that were 
oppressed by the devil." 4 And elsewhere we read, 
He " hath exalted as a giant to run his way 
His going forth is from the highest heavens, and his 
circuit even to the end thereof." 5 Well might 
St. Paul cry out : " Seek the things that are above, 
where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God." 
In vain would the Apostle labour to raise our 
hearts upwards if he did not teach us that the 
Author of our salvation is sitting in heaven. 

But what follows ? The matter here is indeed 
abundant in the extreme ; but our limited time 
does not admit of a lengthened development. By 

1 Ps. Ixxii. 25, 26. 2 Ps. xxii. 4. 3 Eph. iv. 10. 

4 Acts x. 38. 5 Ps. xviii. 7. G Col. iii. i. 



io SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

considering Who He is that comes, we see His 
supreme and ineffable majesty, and by contem 
plating whence He comes, we behold the great high 
way clearly laid out to us. The Prophet Isaias 
says : " Behold, the name of the Lord cometh from 
afar." 1 By reflecting whither He comes, we see His 
inestimable and inconceivable condescension in His 
descending from highest heavens to abide with us 
in this miserable prison-house. Who can doubt 
that there was some grand cause powerful enough 
to move so sovereign a Majesty to come " from 
afar," and condescend to enter a place so 
unworthy of Him as this world of ours. The 
cause was in truth great. It was His immense 
mercy, His multiplied compassion, His abundant 
charity. 

For what end must we believe that He came ? 
This question is the next in order to be examined ; 
nor will the search demand much labour, for the 
end and purpose of His coming is proclaimed by 
His words and His works. To seek after the one 
sheep of the hundred that had strayed He hastened 
from the mountains. For our sake He came down 
from heaven, that His mercies and His wonders 
might be openly proclaimed to the children of men. 
O wonderful condescension of God in this search ! 
O wonderful dignity of man who is thus sought ! If 
he should wish to glory in this dignity, it would not 
be imputed to him as folly. Not that he need 
think anything of himself, but let him rejoice that 
He Who made him should set so high a value on 
him. For all the riches and glory of the world, all 
1 Isa. xxx. 27. 



ADVENT n 

that is desirable therein, is far below this glory nay, 
can bear no comparison with it. " Lord, what is 
man that thou should magnify him ? and why 
settest thou thy heart upon him P" 1 

I still further desire to know why He should come 
to us, and not we rather go to Him, for the need 
was on our side, and it is not usual for the rich to 
go to the poor, though otherwise willing to assist 
them. It was indeed our place to go forward to 
Him, but there stood a twofold impediment in the 
way ; for our eyes were heavy, and He " dwelt in 
light inaccessible." We lay as paralytics on our 
beds, and could not raise ourselves to the Divine 
elevation. Wherefore this most benign Saviour 
and Physician of souls descended to us from His 
lofty throne, and tempered His brightness to the 
weakness of our sight. He clothed Himself with 
His most glorious and spotless body as with the 
shade of a lantern, thus attempering to us His 
splendour. This is that bright and shining cloud 
upon which the Lord was to descend upon Egypt, 
as the Prophet Isaiah foretold. 2 

It is now fitting that we should consider the time 
of our Lord s coming. 

He came, as you know, not in the beginning, nor 
in the midst of time, but in the end of it. This was 
no unsuitable choice, but a truly wise dispensation 
of His infinite wisdom, that He might afford help 
when He saw it was most needed. Truly, " it was 
evening, and the day was far spent " ; 3 the sun of 
justice had wellnigh set, and but a faint ray of his 
light and heat remained on earth. The light of 

1 Job vii. 17. 2 Isa. xix. i. 3 St. Luke xxiv. 29. 



12 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

Divine knowledge was very small, and as iniquity 
abounded, the fervour of charity had grown cold. 
No angel appeared, no prophet spoke. The angelic 
vision and the prophetic spirit alike had passed 
away, both hopelessly baffled by the exceeding 
obduracy and obstinacy of mankind. Then it was 
that the Son of God said : " Behold, I come." 1 And 
" while all things were in quiet silence, and the 
night was in the midst of her course, the almighty 
word leaped down from heaven from thy royal 
throne." 2 Of this coming the Apostle speaks : 
" When the fullness of time was come, God sent his 
Son." 3 The plenitude and affluence of things tem 
poral had brought on the oblivion and penury of 
things eternal. Fitly, therefore, did the Eternal 
God come when things of time were reigning 
supreme. To pass over other points, such was the 
temporal peace at the birth of Christ that by the 
edict of one man the whole world was enrolled. 

You have now heard Who He is that comes, 
whence, whither, and to whom He comes ; the 
cause, likewise, and the time of His coming are 
known to you. One point is yet to be considered 
namely, the way by which He came. This must be 
diligently examined, that we may, as is fitting, go 
forth to meet Him. As He once came visibly in 
the body to work our salvation in the midst of the 
earth, so does He come daily invisibly and in spirit 
to work the salvation of each individual soul ; as 
it is written : " The Spirit before our face, Christ 
the Lord." And that we might know this spiritual 
advent to be hidden, it is said : " Under his shadow 
1 Heb. x. 7. 2 Wisd. xviii. 14, 15. 3 Gal. iv. 4. 



ADVENT 13 

we shall live among the Gentiles/ 1 Wherefore, if 
the infirm cannot go far to meet this great Phy 
sician, it is at least becoming they should endeavour 
to raise their heads and lift themselves a little to 
greet their Saviour. For this, O man, you are not 
required to cross the sea, to penetrate the clouds, 
to scale the mountain-tops. No lofty way is set 
before you. Turn within thyself to meet thy God, 
for the Word is nigh in thy mouth and in thy heart. 
Meet Him by compunction of heart and by con 
fession of mouth, or, at least, go forth from the cor 
ruption of a sinful conscience, for it is not becoming 
that the Author of purity should enter there. 

It is delightful to contemplate the manner of 
His visible coming, for His " ways are beautiful, and 
all his paths are peace/ 2 " Behold," says the 
Spouse of the Canticles, " he cometh leaping upon 
the mountains, skipping upon the hills." 3 You see 
Him coming, O beautiful one, but His previous 
lying down you could not see, for you said : " Shew 
me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou 
feedest, where thou liest/ 4 He lay feeding His 
angels in His endless eternity with the vision of His 
glorious, unchanging beauty. But know, O beauti 
ful one, that that vision is become wonderful to 
thee ; it is high, and thou canst not reach it. Never 
theless, behold He hath gone forth from His holy 
place, and He that had lain feeding His angels hath 
undertaken to heal us. We shall see Him coming 
as our food, Whom we were not able to behold while 
He was feeding His angels in His repose. " Be 
hold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, 

1 Lara. iv. 20. 2 Prov. iii. 17. 3 Cant. ii. 8. 4 Cant. i. 6. 



1 4 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

skipping upon the hills." The mountains and hills 
we may consider to be the Patriarchs and the Pro 
phets, and we may see His leaping and skipping in 
the book of His genealogy. " Abraham begot 
Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob," 1 etc. From the moun 
tains came forth the root of Jesse, as you will find 
from the Prophet Isaias : " There shall come forth 
a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a flower shall rise 
up out of his root, and the Spirit of the Lord shall 
rest upon him." 2 The same prophet speaks yet 
more plainly : " Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and 
bear a Son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel, 
which is interpreted, God with us/ " 3 He Who 
is first styled a flower is afterwards called Emmanuel, 
and in the rod is named the virgin. But we. must 
reserve for another day further consideration of 
this sublime mystery, as there is ample material for 
another sermon, especially as to-day s has been 
rather long. 

SERMON II 

ON THE WORDS TO ACHAZ, " ASK THEE 
A SIGN," ETC. 

" And the Lord spoke again to Achaz, saying : Ask thee 
a sign of the Lord thy God, either unto the depth of hell, 
or unto the height above. And Achaz said : I will not ask, 
and I will not tempt the Lord." 4 

WE have heard Isaiah persuading King Achaz to 

ask for a sign from the Lord, either in the depth of 

hell, or in the height above. We have heard the 

1 St. Matt. i. 2. 2 Isa. xi. i, 2. 3 Isa. vii. 14. 4 Ibid. 10-12. 



ADVENT 15 

King s answer ^ having the semblance of piety, but 
not its reality. On this account he deserved to be 
rejected by Him Who sees the heart, and to Whom 
the thoughts of men confess. " I will not ask," he 
says, " and I will not tempt the Lord." Achaz was 
puffed up with the pomp of the regal throne, and 
skilled in the cunning words of human wisdom. 
Isaias has therefore heard the words : " Go, tell that 
fox to ask for himself a sign from the Lord unto the 
depths of hell." For the fox had a hole, but it was 
in hell, where, if he descended, he would find One 
Who would catch the wise in his cunning. Again : 
" Go," says the Lord, " to that bird, and let him 
ask for a sign in the heights above," for the bird hath 
his high nest ; but though he ascend to heaven, he 
will there find Him Who " resisteth the proud," and 
trampleth with might on the necks of the lofty and 
high-minded. Achaz refused to ask a sign of that 
sovereign power, or that incomprehensible depth. 
Wherefore the Lord Himself promised to the house 
of David a sign of goodness and charity, that those 
whom the exhibition of His power could not terrify, 
nor the manifestations of His wisdom subdue, might 
be allured by His exceeding love. In the words 
" depth of hell " may be not unfitly portrayed the 
charity " greater than which no man hath," that 
Christ should at death descend even unto hell " for 
His friends." And in this God would teach Achaz 
either to dread the majesty of Him Who reigns in 
the highest, or to embrace the charity of Him Who 
descends to the lowest. Grievous, therefore, alike 
to God and man is he who will neither think on 
majesty with fear nor meditate on charity with 



16 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

love. " Wherefore/ 1 the Prophet says, " the Lord 
himself shall give you a sign." 1 a sign resplendent 
alike with majesty and love. " Behold a virgin 
shall conceive, and bear a Son, and his name shall be 
called Emmanuel, which is interpreted, God with 
us. f O Adam ! flee not away, for God is with us ! 
Fear not, O man, nor be afraid to hear His name ; 
it is " God with us/ With us in the likeness of our 
nature ; with us for our service and for our profit. 
For us He is come as one of us, passible like unto us. 

It is said, " He will eat butter and honey " ; as if 
to say, He shall be a little one, fed with infant s 
food. " That he may know how to reject evil and 
choose good." As in the case of the forbidden tree, 
the tree of transgression, so now we hear of an option 
between good and evil. But the choice of the 
second Adam is better than that of the first. Choosing 
the good, He refused the evil ; not as He Who loved 
cursing, and it came upon Him ; and He would not 
have blessing, and it was far from Him. 2 In the 
prophecy that He would eat butter and honey you 
may notice the choice of this little one. But may 
His grace support us, that what He grants us the 
power to understand He may likewise enable us to 
explain ! 

From milk we obtain two substances, butter and 
cheese. Butter is oily and moist ; cheese, on the 
contrary, is hard. Our little one knew well how to 
choose when, eating the butter, He did not taste 
the cheese. Behold, therefore, how He chose the 
best ; He assumed our nature free from all corruption 
of sin. Of sinners we read that their heart is 
1 Isa. vii. 14. 2 Ps. cviii. 18. 



ADVENT 17 

curdled as milk ; the purity of their nature is cor 
rupted by the fermentation of malice and iniquity. 

And now let us turn to the honey. Our bee feeds 
among lilies, and dwells in the flowery country of the 
angels. This bee flew to the city of Nazareth, 
which is, interpreted, a flower ; He came to the sweet- 
smelling flower of perpetual virginity ; He settled 
upon it, He clove to it. But bees, besides their 
sweet honey, have likewise their sharp sting. The 
Prophet that sang of the mercy and judgment of 
the Lord, knew that this bee had a sting as well as 
honey. 1 Nevertheless, when He descended to us 
He brought honey only that is, mercy, not judg 
ment so that to the disciples who wished to call 
down fire from heaven on the cities that would not 
receive Him, He answered : " The Son of Man is 
not come to judge the world, but to save it." 2 
Our bee had no sting in His mortal life ; amid the 
extremity of insult He showed mercy, not judgment. 
Christ, then, may be symbolized both as a bee and 
as the flower springing from the rod. And, as we 
know, the rod is the Virgin Mother of God. 

This flower, the Son of the Virgin, is " white and 
ruddy, chosen out of thousands." 3 It is the flower 
on which the angels desire to look, the flower whose 
perfume shall revive the dead, the flower, as He 
Himself declares, of the field, not of the garden. 
This flower grew and flourished in the field inde 
pendent of all human culture ; unsown by the hand 
of man, un tilled by the spade, or fattened by 
moisture. So did the womb of Mary blossom. As 
a rich pasture it brought forth the flower of eternal 

1 Ps. c. i. 2 St. John xii. 47. 3 Cant. v. 10. 

2 



i8 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

beauty, whose freshness shall never fade nor see 
corruption, whose glory is to everlasting. O 
sublime virgin rod, that raisest thy holy head aloft, 
even to Him Who sitteth on the throne, even to the 
Lord of Majesty ! And this is not wonderful, for 
thou hast planted thy roots deeply in the soil of 
humility. O truly celestial plant, than which none 
more precious, none more holy ! O true tree of 
life, alone deemed worthy to bear the fruit of sal 
vation ! Thou art caught, O wicked serpent, 
caught in thy own cunning ; thy falsity is laid bare. 
Two evils thou hadst imputed to thy Creator ; thou 
hadst defamed Him by envy and by lying, but in 
both imputations thou art convicted a liar. He to 
whom thou hadst promised that he should not die 
did die, " and the truth of the Lord remaineth for 
ever/ 1 And now answer, if thou canst, what tree 
God could forbid man, seeing He denied him not 
this chosen rod, this sublime fruit ? For " he that 
spared not his own Son, how hath he not with him 
given us all things ?" 2 

It is now surely clear how the Virgin is the royal 
way by which the Saviour has drawn near to us, 
coming forth from her womb as a Bridegroom from 
His bridal chamber. Holding on, therefore, to this 
way, let us endeavour to ascend to Him by her, 
through Whom He descended to us ; let us seek His 
grace through her by whom He came to succour 
our need. 

O blessed finder of grace ! Mother of life ! Mother 
of salvation ! may we through thee have access to 
thy Son, that through thee we may be received by 
1 Ps. cxvi. 2. 2 Rom. viii. 32. 



ADVENT 19 

Him Who through thee was given to us. May thy 
integrity and purity excuse before Him the stain 
of our corruption ; may thy humility, so pleasing 
to God, obtain from Him the pardon of our vanity. 
May thy abundant charity cover the multitude of 
our iniquity, and thy glorious fruitfulness supply 
our indigence of merits. Our Lady, our Mediatrix, 
our Advocate, reconcile us to thy Son, commend 
us to thy Son, present us to thy Son. By the grace 
thou hast found, by the prerogative thou didst 
merit, by the mercy thou didst bring forth, obtain, 
O blessed one, that He Who vouchsafed to become 
partaker of our infirmity and misery, may, through 
thy intercession, make us partakers of His blessed 
ness and glory, Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord, 
Who is God blessed above all for evermore. Amen. 



2 2 



II 
ON THE "MISSUS EST " 



ON THE " MISSUS EST 

The holy Abbot St. Bernard s Preface to His "Praises 
of the Virgin Mother. I am in straits. My devotion bids 
me write ; my occupations hinder me. Nevertheless, as 
sickness prevents me at present from following the com 
munity exercises with my brethren, I will not spend use 
lessly that little leisure which I contrive to find by shorten 
ing my night s rest. Besides, it is a pleasure to me to 
attempt what has been for so long in my mind namely, 
to speak or write something to the praise of the Virgin 
Mother, upon that portion of St. Luke s Gospel which con 
tains the history of the Annunciation of our Lord s birth. 

" And while I devote myself to this work, so long as 
the brethren over whom I am placed, and whom it is my 
happy duty to serve, do not find me less ready to minister 
either to their pressing needs, or even to their reasonable 
demands upon my time, I think none ought to object 
to my thus satisfying my devotion. 

HOMILY I 

THE PRAISES OF THE VIRGIN-MOTHER 

" The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of 
Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man 
whose name was Joseph, of the house of David ; and the 
virgin s name was Mary." 1 

WHAT can be the Evangelist s intention in mention 
ing in this text so many proper names ? I think 
it is that he would not have us listen carelessly to 
1 St. Luke i. 26, 27. 

23 



24 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

what he has been at such pains to relate. He names 
the messenger sent, the Lord by Whom, the Virgin 
to whom he is sent, the spouse of the Virgin, with the 
race of each ; their city, too, and country are 
pointed out by name. And why all this explana 
tion ? Can the Evangelist have said anything 
superfluous ? By no means. If not a leaf from a 
tree, nor a single sparrow falls to the ground without 
a cause and the knowledge of our heavenly Father, 
can I suppose that one superfluous word would fall 
from the lips of the holy Evangelist, especially 
when he is giving the history of the Word Incar 
nate ? Certainly I cannot. Full is every word of 
divinest mystery, redolent of sweetest heavenly 
perfume ; to him, that is, who searches it diligently 
and knows how to draw " honey from the rock and 
oil from the flinty stone." 1 For in that day " the 
mountains dropped down with sweetness, and the 
hills flowed with milk " 2 and honey. When the 
heavens dropped down dew and the clouds rained 
the Just One, then the joyous earth was opened 
and budded forth a Saviour, then the Lord gave 
goodness and our earth yielded forth her fruit. 3 
On that mountain of mountains heaped up and fat 
" mercy and truth met each other, justice and 
peace kissed/ 4 In that day, too, one mountain 
was especially blessed among mountains namely, 
the Evangelist himself, when, with mellifluous 
eloquence, he made known to us the beginning of 
our long-desired salvation, like some delightful south 
wind bringing delicious spiritual perfumes caught 
from the rising Sun of justice. Would that God 
1 Deut. xxxii. 13. 2 Joel iii. 18. 3 Ps. Ixxxiv. 13. 4 Ibid. 



ON THE " MISSUS EST 25 

would now also " send forth his words a and " let 
them flow to us " ; may " his Spirit breathe," may 
the Evangelist s words be intelligible to us ; may they 
become to our hearts " more desirable than gold 
and precious stones " ; 2 may they be sweeter to us 
than honey and the honeycomb. 

" The angel Gabriel was sent from God." 3 I do 
not think that this was one of the lower angels who 
for one cause or another are often sent to earth ; 
and I gather it from his name, which is interpreted 
" Strength of God " ; because, also, he was not 
sent as is usual from a superior spirit, but from 
God Himself. For this reason it is said " sent from 
God," or appointed by God, lest we should suppose 
that God had revealed His design to anyone before 
the Blessed Virgin. Among the blessed spirits 
themselves Gabriel alone was excepted, for he alone 
was found worthy of his name and embassy. The 
name befits the messenger, for could Christ, the 
Power of God, be more fittingly announced than by 
him who bore a similar name ? Nor is it unbecoming 
or unsuitable that the Lord and His nuncio should 
bear the same title, for though the name is alike, the 
cause for which it is given differs. Christ is called 
the Strength or Power of God in quite another sense 
than the angel. In the angel it is merely an appel 
lation ; in Christ it expresses a substantial quality. 
Christ is called, and is, the Power of God. Stronger 
than the strong-armed, the Prince of this world, who 
kept his goods in peace, He came down upon him, 
waged war against him, and with His own arm 
bore away the spoils. The angel is called the 

1 Ps. cxlvii. 2 Ps. xviii. u. 3 St. Luke i. 26. 



26 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

Strength of God either because he had merited the 
prerogative of officially announcing the Advent of 
the Power of God, or in order that he might 
strengthen and support the Virgin, by nature timid 
and bashful, whom the novelty of the miracle might 
terrify and overpower. This he did when he said : 
" Fear not, Mary, thou hast found grace with God." 1 
It is not unreasonable to suppose, though the 
Evangelist does not mention the angel s name, that 
this was the same archangel who strengthened and 
comforted Mary s spouse, a humble and timorous 
man. " Fear not, Joseph," he says, " son of 
David, to take unto thee Mary thy wife." 2 Gabriel, 
therefore, was most fitly chosen for this work, or 
rather the name was imposed because of the embassy. 
The angel, therefore, is sent from God. Whither ? 
" To a city of Galilee called Nazareth." Let us see if, 
as Nathaniel says, anything good can come from 
Nazareth. Nazareth is interpreted flower. The 
seed of this flower seems to me to have been cast 
from heaven upon the earth by the heavenly words 
spoken and the promises made to our fathers 
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Of this seed it is 
written, " Except the Lord of Hosts had left us seed, 
we had been as Sodom, and we should have been as 
Gomorrha." 3 This seed flowered in the wonders 
displayed in the going forth from Egypt ; it flowered 
in the signs and figures that marked the journey of 
the Israelites through the wilderness to the Prom 
ised Land ; it flowered in the vision sand pro 
phetical declarations of the Prophets, in the 
establishment and order of the kingdom and priest- 
1 St. Luke i. 30. 2 St. Matt. i. 20. 3 Isa. i. 9. 



ON THE " MISSUS EST 27 

hood before the coming of Christ. But Christ is 
rightly understood to be the fruit of this seed and 
flower. For David says, " The Lord will give 
goodness, the earth shall yield her fruit." 1 And 
again : " Of the fruit of thy womb, I will set one 
upon thy throne/ 2 In Nazareth, therefore, Christ s 
future birth is announced, because when the flower 
has budded we have hope that fruit will follow. But, 
as in the formation of the fruit the flower decays 
and drops off, so with the appearance of the Truth 
in the flesh, the figures passed away. 

As the Apostle says, " These things happened to 
them in figure." 3 Hence Nazareth is called a city 
of Galilee that is, change, or passage. We who 
have the fruit see that these flowers have passed 
away, and that even while they seemed to flourish 
their future decay was foretold. For David says : 
" In the morning he shall grow up like grass : in 
the morning he shall flourish and pass away, in the 
evening he shall fall, grow dry and wither." 4 In 
the evening that is, in the fullness of time, when 
" God sent his only Son made of a woman, made 
under the law." 5 " Behold," He says, " I make all 
things new." 6 Hence it is again written, " The 
grass is withered and the flower is fallen : but the 
word of the Lord remaineth for ever." 7 I think 
there is no doubt that the Word is Christ, and 
Christ is the good fruit that remaineth for ever. 
But where is the grass that withered ? where the 
flower that fell off ? Let the Prophet answer : " All 

1 Ps. Ixxxiv. 13. 2 Ps. cxxxi. .11. 3 i Cor. x. 6. 
4 Ps. Ixxxix. 6. 5 Gal. iv. 4. 6 Apoc. xxi. 5. 

7 Isa. xl. 7, 8. 



28 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

flesh is grass, and all the glory thereof as the flower 
of the field." 1 If all flesh is grass, the carnal Jews 
were grass ; and did not the grass wither when that 
people, devoid of spiritual unction, adhered to the 
dry letter ? 2 And did not the flower fall off when 
they no longer gloried in the law ? If the flower 
did not fall, where is their kingdom, their priest 
hood, their prophets, their temple ? Where are 
those wonders in which they were wont to glory and 
to say : " How great things have we heard and 
known, and our fathers have told us "? 3 And again : 
" How great things he commanded our fathers, that 
they should make known to their children." 4 

To Nazareth, a city of Galilee." To this city 
the angel Gabriel was sent from God. To whom ? 
To a Virgin espoused to a man whose name was 
Joseph." Who is this Virgin so reverently saluted 
by the angel ? and so lowly as to be espoused to a 
carpenter ? Beautiful commingling of virginity 
with humility ! That soul is in no small degree 
pleasing to God, in Whom humility commends 
virginity, and virginity adorns humility. But how 
much more worthy of veneration is she, in whom 
fecundity exalts humility, and child-bearing con 
secrates virginity. Virginity is a commendable 
virtue, but humility an indispensable one. The 
first is of counsel, the latter of precept. Of the 
one it is said, " He that can take, let him take it." 5 
Of the other, " Unless you become as little children, 
you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." 6 
To the one reward is offered : the other is exacted 

1 Isa. xl. 6. 2 Ibid. 7. 3 Ps. Ixxvii. 3. 

4 Ibid. 5 St. Matt. xix. 12. c St. Matt, xviii. 3. 



ON THE " MISSUS EST 29 

under a threat. Again, we can be saved without 
virginity, not without humility. A soul that has 
to deplore the loss of virginity may still be accept 
able to God by humility : without humility, I will 
venture to say that even the virginity of Mary would 
not have been pleasing to Him, the Divine Majesty. 
Upon whom shall my spirit rest, if not on him that 
is humble and peaceable P 1 He says not on the 
virgin, but on the humble. If, therefore, Mary 
had not been humble the Spirit would not have 
rested on her. If the Holy Spirit had not rested 
on her, she would never have become fruitful ; for 
how without Him could she have conceived of Him ? 
Therefore, as she herself testifies, in order that she 
might conceive of the Holy Ghost, God the Father 
" regarded the humility of his handmaid," 2 rather 
than her virginity. And if by her virginity she was 
acceptable to Him, nevertheless, it was by her 
humility that she conceived Him. Hence it is 
evident that it was her humility that rendered even 
her virginity pleasing to God. 

A proud virgin, what can you say ? Mary forgets 
herself and her virginity, and glories only in her 
humility, and you, neglecting humility, presume 
to pride yourself on your virginity. She says : 
" He hath had regard to the humility of his hand 
maid." And who is this handmaid ? A holy 
virgin, a prudent virgin, a devout virgin. Are you 
more chaste than she ? Are you more devout ? 
Is your purity more pleasing than the chastity of 
Mary, that without humility, you deem it sufficient 
for you, when without humility her virginity could 
1 Isa. xl. 2. 2 St. Luke i. 48. 



30 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

not find favour ? The more honourable the gift 
of chastity, the greater the injury you do it in tar 
nishing its beauty within you by any admixture of 
pride. It would have been better for you not to 
be a virgin than to be puffed up and grow insolent 
by virginity. Virginity is not for all ; it is for the few ; 
and there are few among the few that unite humility 
with virginity. Wherefore, if you can only admire 
the virginity of Mary without being able to imitate 
it, study to copy her humility, and it will be sufficient 
for you. But if with virginity you possess humility, 
then you are great indeed. 

But in Mary there is something more wonderful 
still : it is the union of fecundity with virginity. 
Since the beginning of the world it had not been 
heard that a woman was at once a virgin and a 
mother. And if you consider of whom she is the 
mother, how great will be your admiration of her 
exalted dignity ! Do you feel as if you can never 
sufficiently praise it ? Do you not judge, and rightly, 
that she who has the God-man for her Son is exalted 
in greatness above all the choirs of angels ? Did 
not Mary confidently call the God and Lord of 
Angels her Son, saying : " Son, why hast thou done 
so to us P" 1 Which of the angels would have pre 
sumed thus to speak ? It is sufficient for them and 
something great, that while by nature they are spirits 
by grace they are made and called angels, as David 
says : " Who maketh his angels spirits." 2 In con 
fidently calling God her Son, Mary acknowledges 
herself mother of that Majesty Whom those angels 
serve with reverential awe. Neither does God 
1 St. Luke ii. 48. 2 Ps. ciii. 4, and Heb. i. 7. 



ON THE " MISSUS EST 31 

disdain to be called what He vouchsafed to be. 
For the Evangelist adds shortly after, " And he 
was subject to them." 1 Who was subject ? God, 
to man. God to Whom the angels are subject. 
God, Whom the powers and principalities obey, was 
subject to Mary. And not only to Mary, but to 
Joseph also for Mary s sake. Consider, then, and 
choose which you will most admire, the gracious 
condescension of the Son, or the surpassing dignity 
of the mother. Both are amazing ; both are 
miraculous. That a God should obey a woman 
is humility without example ; that a woman 
should command the Son of God is a dignity without 
parallel. In the praise of virgins we hear that 
wonderful verse : " They shall follow the Lamb 
whithersoever he goeth." 2 But what praise, think 
you, is worthy of her who leads the way before Him ? 
Learn, O man, to obey ; learn, O earth, to be subject ; 
learn, O dust, to be submissive. The Evangelist, 
speaking of your Creator, says : " He was subject 
to them " that is, of course, to Mary and Joseph. 

Blush, O dust and ashes, and be ashamed to be 
proud. God humbles Himself, and do you exalt your 
self ? God submits to man, and do you desire to 
domineer over your fellow-man ? In so doing you 
prefer yourself to your Creator. Would that when such 
thoughts assail me, God would vouchsafe to make 
me the same reproach as to His Apostle : " Get 
behind me, Satan, for thou savourest not the things 
that are of God/ 3 As often as I seek distinction 
among men, so often do I dispute the pre-eminence 
with my God, and then assuredly I savour not the 

1 St. Luke ii. 51. 2 Apoc. xiv. 4. 3 St. Matt. xvi. 23. 



32 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

things that are of God, since of Him it is said : 
" He was subject to them." If, O man, you disdain 
to imitate the example of your fellow-man, you 
cannot find it degrading to follow that of your 
Maker. If you cannot follow Him " whithersoever 
he goeth," at least follow Him in the most safe 
road of humility, for, from this straight path should 
even virgins deviate they will not " follow the 
Lamb whithersoever he goeth." The Larnb is 
followed by the innocent soul and by the once sin- 
stained but now humble and repentant soul ; by 
the proud virgin, likewise, He is followed, but 
assuredly not " whithersoever he goeth." The 
penitent cannot rise to the purity of the Lamb 
without spot, the proud soul cannot descend to the 
meekness of Him Who, not before His shearers only, 
but even before His executioners, was dumb and 
opened not his mouth. It is safer for the sinner 
to follow in humility than to be proud in virginity, 
because the sinner by his humility makes satis 
faction for, and purges away his impurity, whereas, 
the purity of the other is polluted by pride. 

Happy was Mary in whom neither humility nor 
virginity was wanting. O glorious virginity ! which 
fecundity honoured, but did not contaminate. 
O singular humility ! that a fruitful virginity elevated 
but did not destroy. O incomparable fecundity ! 
in which virginity was associated with humility. 
Which of them is not wonderful, incomparable, 
unique ? In pondering them, we are at a loss to 
decide which is the more worthy of admiration : 
the Virgin s fecundity, the Mother s integrity, or 
the adorable dignity of her offspring ; or, again, 



ON THE MISSUS EST 33 

that in such sublime elevation she still preserves 
her humility. Can we be surprised that God, 
Who is wonderful in His saints, should also show 
Himself wonderful in His Mother ? Admire, ye 
married, and reverence her integrity in corruptible 
flesh ! Ye sacred virgins, behold with astonish 
ment this fruitful virgin ! Let all Christians imitate 
the humility of the Mother of God ! O holy angels, 
honour the Mother of your King ! He is at once our 
King and yours, the Redeemer of our race, the 
replenisher of your city. To Him Who with you 
is so glorious, with us so humble, be rendered for 
ages without end, both by us and by you, the rever 
ence due to His dignity and the honour and glory 
worthy of His infinite condescension. Amen. Amen. 

HOMILY II 

THE MISSION OF THE ANGEL 

No one, surely, will doubt that in the kingdom of 
God the Queen of virgins will join nay, rather, 
will take the lead in the canticle which only virgins 
sing. Further than this, I think she will gladden 
the City of God with a yet sweeter and more thrill 
ing melody, whose enrapturing strains not one 
among the virgins will be worthy to utter. This 
song will be reserved to her who alone could glory 
in her child-bearing a Divine child-bearing. In 
thus glorying, she glories not in herself, but in Him 
Whom she brought forth ; for God would certainly 
enrich with singular glory in heaven that Mother 
whom He prevented with the surpassing grace of 

3 



34 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

bringing Him into the world without pi|$judice to 
her virginity. Such a birth was becoming a God 
Who alone could be born of a virgin. Such a child- 
bearing was befitting one who had a God for her 
Child. Therefore, it was needful that the Creator 
of man, in order to unite Himself to the human race, 
should choose nay, create a Mother whom He 
knew to be worthy of, and acceptable to^ Himself. 
He willed her to be an immaculate virgin, that she 
might merit to have for her Son the Spotless One, 
Who was about to take away the sins of the world. 
He willed her, too, to be humble, from whom He Who 
was meek and humble should come into the world, 
He Who was to show to all men a salutary example 
of these two virtues. He gave fruitfulness to the 
Virgin whom He had previously inspired with the 
desire of vowing her virginity to God, and whom 
He had also enriched with the grace of humility. 
Otherwise, how could the angel have proclaimed 
her " full of grace " if ?he had possessed any of the 
least good that was not the effect of Divine grace ? 
In order, therefore, that she who was to conceive 
and bring forth the Holy of Holies might be holy 
in body, she received the gift of virginity, and that 
she might be holy in mind, she received the gift 
of humility. With these gems of virtue the royal 
Virgin was adorned, and, radiant with the double 
splendour of holiness in body and mind, she was no 
sooner revealed to the heavenly citizens than they 
fixed upon her their admiring gaze. The King 
Himself stooped to desire her beauty, and sent her 
His heavenly ambassador. And this is what the 
Evangelist makes known when he says that the 



ON THE " MISSUS EST " 

angel was sent from God to the Vii 
God to the Virgin that is, from the hi 
lowliest ; from the Lord to His handma: 
Creator to His creature. How great tne con 
descension of God ! How pre-eminent the excel 
lence of the Virgin ! 

Hasten, ye mothers ! Press forward, ye daughters 
of Eve ! Come quickly, all you who, on account of 
Eve s fall, bring forth in sorrow ! Approach the 
Virgin s chamber ; enter, if you can, the modest room 
of your Sister ; for, behold ! God sends a message 
to the Virgin. An angel addresses Mary. Place 
your ear close to the wall ; listen to what he 
announces ; perchance you may receive a word of 
consolation. Rejoice, O father Adam, and exult 
yet more, mother Eve you who, though the 
parents of all, were their destroyers even before 
you became their parents. Be consoled now in 
your daughter, and in such a daughter ! you especi 
ally, O Eve, from whom the evil first originated, 
and whose reproach passed as a disgraceful legacy 
to womanhood. The time is at hand when that 
reproach shall be taken away. Wherefore, O Eve, 
hasten to Mary ; hasten, O Mother, to your daughter. 
Let the daughter answer for the mother ; let her 
take away her mother s reproach ; let her satisfy 
also for her father Adam, for if he fell by a woman, 
behold, he is now raised up by a woman. God gave 
a woman in exchange for a woman ; a prudent woman 
for one that was foolish ; a humble woman for one 
who was proud ; one who, instead of the fruit of 
death, shall give you to eat of the tree of life, and 
who, in place of the poisoned food of bitterness, 

32 



36 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

will bring forth the fruit of everlasting sweetness. 
Change now, O Adam, your wicked words of excuse 
to the song of endless thanksgiving, and say : " O 
Lord, the woman whom thou hast given me, gave 
me of the tree of life ; and I have eaten, and its 
fruit has been sweeter than honey to my mouth, 
and by it thou hast given me life." This is why 
the angel was sent to the Virgin. O wondrous and 
most honourable Virgin ! O woman singularly 
venerable ! admirable among all women ! thou who 
hast satisfied for thy parents, and restored life to 
their posterity. 

" The Angel was sent to a virgin." A virgin in 
body, a virgin in mind, a virgin by profession, a 
virgin such as the Apostle describes " holy in body 
and in mind." 1 She is no recent and chance dis 
covery, but the object of God s eternal predilection ; 
foreknown by the Most High, prepared for Himself, 
guarded by angels, pointed out by the Patriarchs, 
promised by the Prophets. Search the Scriptures, 
and prove the truth of my words. To give a few 
testimonies out of many, of what other woman 
could God have spoken when He said to the serpent, 
" I will place enmities between thee and the 
woman ?" 2 And if you still doubt whether Mary 
were that woman, listen to what follows : " She 
shall crush thy head." 3 To whom but to Mary was 
such a victory reserved ? Undoubtedly the em 
poisoned head of the serpent was crushed by Mary, 
who brought to naught every suggestion of the Evil 
One, as well as regards carnal allurements as in- 
1 i Cor. vii. 34. 3 Gen. iii. 15. 3 Ibid. 



ON THE " MISSUS EST " 37 

tellectual pride. Again, what other woman did 
Solomon seek ? The Wise Man knew the frailty 
of that sex, the weakness of their bodies, the in 
constancy of their minds. But he had read God s 
promise, and saw that it was fitting that the enemy 
who had been victorious over the human race by 
means of a woman should by another woman be 
himself overcome. Wondering exceedingly, he 
exclaimed : " Who shall find a valiant woman P" 1 
As if to say, if upon a woman depends alike the 
salvation of our race, its restoration to innocence, 
and its victory over our common enemy, she must 
indeed be valiant to be fitted for so sublime an 
undertaking. But " who shall find a valiant 
woman ?" And lest he should be accused of asking 
in despondency, he adds in prophecy, " The price 
of her is as of things brought from afar off, and 
from the remotest coasts." Such a price is not 
small, nor mean, nor of light account, nor is it from 
earth, but from heaven. And not even from the 
heaven nearest the earth, but from the highest 
heavens " His going forth is from the height of 
heaven." 2 And what, again, was that bush shown 
to Moses, burning and yet unburnt, but Mary 
who brought forth without sorrow ? In Aaron s 
rod, which flowered without moisture, she is also 
typified, for she conceived without knowing man. 

The mystery of this stupendous miracle Isaias 
more clearly points out when he says : " There shall 
come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse, and a 
flower shall rise up out of his root." The rod is the 
Virgin, the flower the Virgin s Child. There is 
1 Prov. xxxi. 10. 2 Ps. xviii. 7. 



38 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

nothing unfitting in Christ being represented under 
different figures for different causes. So we may 
speak of Him as the rod, an emblem of power, or as 
the flower, emblem of fragrance, or as the fruit, 
that of sweetness ; whilst by the leaves we may 
understand His ceaseless protection that protection 
which He continually extends over the little ones 
who take refuge under His shadow from the heat of 
earthly desires, and from the face of them that 
afflict them. good and desirable shade, under the 
protection of Jesus, where he that is pursued finds 
refuge, and where the weary obtain rest and refresh 
ment ! Have mercy on me, O Jesus, for my soul 
confides in Thee, and under the shadow of Thy 
wings I will hope till iniquity pass by. 

Other references might be quoted equally suitable 
to the Virgin Mother and to the Son of God Gideon s 
fleece, for instance, cut from the flesh without 
wounding it, and placed on the dry ground, where 
the dry fleeces are in turn moistened by the dew. 
This similitude represents the flesh assumed from 
the flesh of Mary without injury to her virginity. 
Upon it Heaven dropped down dew, filling it with 
the plenitude of the Divinity, and from that fullness 
we have all received we who, but for it, were as 
parched and arid soil. The Psalmist seems to refer 
very beautifully to this fact in Gideon s history. 
In Ps. Ixxi. we read : " He shall descend like rain 
upon the fleece, and as showers falling gently upon 
the earth." 1 Gently at first, and without noise of 
human operation, He fell softly into the Virgin s 
womb ; afterwards, when the Apostles announced 
1 Ps. Ixxi. 6. 



ON THE " MISSUS EST " 39 

Him, it was with the noise of words and the display 
of miracles. For they were mindful of the words 
spoken to them when they were sent : " What I tell 
you in the dark, speak ye in the light, and what you 
hear in the ear, preach ye on the housetops." 1 This 
injunction they carried out, for " their sound has 
gone forth to the whole earth, and their words to the 
uttermost ends of the world." 2 

Let us now give ear to Jeremias, who foretells a 
new and unheard-of wonder, while he ardently 
desires, and confidently promises, the coming of Him 
Whose presence he might not behold. " God has 
created a new thing on the earth, a woman shall 
encompass a man." 3 Who is this woman, and who 
is this man ? And if a man, how is He encompassed 
by a woman ? " Can a man," said Nicodemus, 
" return to his mother s womb, and be born again ?" 4 
I turn for my answer to the Virgin s conception and 
child-bearing, yet even there, among the many new 
and wonderful mysteries that meet the consideration 
of the diligent inquirer, this which the Prophet here 
proposes will excite admiration. There is seen 
length abbreviated, width straightened, height 
lowered, depth filled up. There we behold light 
withholding its rays, the Word an infant, the Living 
Water athirst, Him Who is the Bread of Heaven 
suffering hunger. Attend and see how Omnipotence 
is ruled, Wisdom instructed, Power sustained ; the 
God Who rejoices the angels is become a Babe at the 
breast ; He Who consoles the afflicted lies weeping 
in a manger. Attend and see how joy is made 

1 St. Matt. x. 27. a Ps. xviii. 5, and Rom. x. 18. 

3 Jer. xxxi. 22. * St. John iii. 4. 



40 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

sorrowful, strength becomes weakness, life death ; 
but what is equally wonderful that sorrow gives 
joy, that weakness imparts strength, that death 
restores life. 

Who does not now see that I have found what I 
sought, and that we behold " a woman encom 
passing a man " when we see Mary enclosing in her 
womb Jesus, the Man-God ? For I may call Jesus 
a man not only when He was proclaimed " a 
prophet mighty in work and word," but also when 
His tender infant limbs lay in the womb of His 
Mother, or gently nestled on her bosom. Jesus, 
then, was a man even before His birth ; not in age, 
but in wisdom ; not in strength of body, but in 
vigour of mind ; not by the development of His 
members, but by the perfection of His intelligence : 
for the wisdom of Jesus was as great at His con 
ception as at His birth, when He was a child as 
when He was a perfect man. Whether hidden in the 
womb or weeping in the manger, whether a boy 
among the doctors or teaching the people in perfect 
manhood, He was ever equally full of the Holy 
Ghost. There was no moment of His human life 
when that plenitude of the Holy Spirit which He 
received at His conception suffered either diminution 
or augmentation. From the first He was perfect, 
from the first He was full of " the spirit of wisdom and 
understanding, of the spirit of counsel and fortitude, 
of the spirit of knowledge and piety, and of the 
spirit of the fear of the Lord." 1 Yet be not surprised 
if you read elsewhere : " And Jesus advanced in 
wisdom and age, and grace before God and men." 2 
1 Isa. xi. 2, 3. 2 St. Luke ii. 52. 



ON THE " MISSUS EST " 41 

What is here said of wisdom and grace must be 
understood not of their essence, but of their outward 
appearance. That is to say, that our Lord never 
acquired what He did not before possess ; but that 
He seemed to acquire it when He willed it to 
appear. 

You, O Christian soul, advance not when and as 
you would ; you find your progress apparently 
checked, your life at the disposal of another. But 
the Child Jesus Who guides your life regulated also 
His own. When He would, and on what occasions 
He would, He appeared wise ; when and as He willed, 
more wise ; and as He willed, most wise ; though all 
the while He never was aught but sublimest 
wisdom. In like manner, though He was ever full 
of all the grace which it was fitting He should have 
before God and men, according as He judged proper, 
He showed now more, now less, according to the 
merits of the observers, or as He knew their spiritual 
needs required it. It is evident, therefore, that if in 
bodily development Jesus did not always appear a 
man, His mind was ever fully developed. 

But let us see if Isaias, who above explained the 
new flowers on Aaron s rod, has not also brought 
light to bear on this " new thing " of Jeremias. 
He says : " Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bring 
forth a son/ 1 Here for the " woman " we have 
" virgin." What does He say of the " man " ? 
" And his name shall be called Emmanuel, that is, 
God with us. Therefore the woman encom 
passing a man is the Virgin conceiving the Son of 
God. How stupendous this very miracle wrought 
1 Isa. vii. 14. 



42 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

in a virgin and from a virgin s nature a miracle 
which so many other miracles had foreshadowed, 
so many oracles proclaimed. The spirit of the 
Prophets was ever the same. Though at different 
times and in different ways, it was not in a different 
spirit that they foresaw and predicted the same 
truth. What is shown by Moses burning bush, 
by Aaron s flowering rod, by Gideon s dew and 
fleece, is clearly spoken of by Solomon in the valiant 
woman and her price ; more clearly by Jeremias in 
the woman and the man ; most plainly by Isaias in 
the Virgin and Emmanuel. To Gabriel it was 
reserved to point her out by his salutation. For of 
her the Evangelist says : " The angel Gabriel was 
sent from God to a virgin espoused to Joseph/ 1 

To a virgin espoused/ Why espoused ? In 
order that Joseph, by carefully studying her life and 
conversation, might be a most faithful witness to her 
purity, for it was intolerable that any slur should be 
cast on the Mother of God. But could not God have 
given some sign which would have preserved His 
own birth from infamy, and His Mother s honour 
from suspicion ? Undoubtedly He could, but not 
without discovering to the devil what He had re 
vealed to men ; and it was necessary that this 
secret of God s counsel should for a time be concealed 
from the prince of this world. Not that God had 
any obstacle to fear from the devil, had He chosen 
to make His operation manifest, but because He 
acts not only powerfully, but wisely, in all that He 
does, and preserves an exquisite order in all His 
works, observing the fitting times and circumstances 
1 St. Luke i. 27. 



ON THE " MISSUS ES . 

for their performance. Therefore, in 
work of our redemption He likewise wi< 
forth His wisdom as well as His power.^ 
have accomplished it by other means, bu1 
to reconcile man to Himself by the same 
in the same order as He knew man had fa\ 
the devil had first deceived the woman, then over 
come the man by the woman, so he was to be 
deceived by a woman, a virgin, and afterwards be 
openly attacked and conquered by the Man (Christ) . 
Thus, by a device of infinite compassion, God laid 
bare the fraud of malice. The power of Christ 
broke the strength of the Evil One, and the might 
and wisdom of God confounded the devil s malice 
and craft. 

It was necessary, then, that Mary should be 
espoused to Joseph, in order that what was holy 
might be concealed from the unholy, that the 
virginity of Mary might be proved to her spouse, 
and that the Virgin might be preserved from 
suspicion and her reputation protected. What 
more wise ? What more worthy of Divine Provi 
dence ? 

But it is written : " Joseph, her husband, being a 
just man, and not willing publicly to expose her, 
had a mind to put her away privately." 1 Truly, 
because he was just, he would not expose her 
publicly ; for as he would not have been just had he 
countenanced one that was guilty, neither would 
he have been just if he had condemned one whose 
innocence he had proved. Since, then, he was just 
and unwilling to expose her, why had he a mind to 
1 St. Matt. i. 19. 



SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

put her away ? I give you on this point not my 
own opinion, but that of the Fathers. Joseph s 
reason was the same as Peter s when he said, 
" Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord," 
and that of the centurion when he exclaimed, " I 
am not worthy that thou shouldst enter under my 
roof." Joseph looked on himself as a sinner and 
as unworthy to entertain one in whom he beheld 
a superhuman dignity. He beheld with awe in the 
Virgin-Mother a certain sign of the Divine Presence, 
and as he could not penetrate the mystery, he 
wished to put her away. Peter was struck with 
awe at the greatness of Christ s power ; the cen 
turion by the majesty of His presence ; and Joseph 
was naturally afraid at the novelty and splendour 
of the miracle and the depth of the mystery. We 
need not wonder that he thought himself unworthy 
of the society of such a virgin when we hear the 
holy Elizabeth exclaim with fear and trembling : 
" Whence is this to me that the mother of my Lord 
should come to me P" 1 But if, on the other hand, 
any believe that Joseph suspected Mary, this very 
doubt of his was necessary, and merited to be 
dispelled by Divine intervention ; for it is written : 
" But while he thought on these things " (that is, 
the putting her away privately), " behold, an angel 
of the Lord appeared to him in his sleep, saying : 
Joseph, son of David, fear not to take unto thee 
Mary, thy wife, for that which is conceived in her 
is of the Holy Ghost." 2 For the above reasons, 
therefore, Mary was espoused to Joseph. 

What are we to think of the dignity of Joseph, 
1 St. Luke i. 43. 2 St. Matt. i. 20. 



ON THE " MISSUS EST " 45 

who deserved to be called and to be regarded as the 
father of our Saviour ? We may draw a parallel 
between him and the great Patriarch. As the first 
Joseph was by the envy of his brothers sold and sent 
into Egypt, the second Joseph fled into Egypt with 
Christ to escape the envy of Herod. The chaste 
Patriarch remained faithful to his master, despite 
the evil suggestions of his mistress. St. Joseph, 
recognizing in his wife the Virgin Mother of his 
Lord, guarded her with the utmost fidelity and 
chastity. To the Joseph of old was given inter 
pretation of dreams, to the new Joseph a share in 
heavenly secrets. His predecessor kept a store of 
corn, not for himself, but for the whole nation ; 
our Joseph received the Living Bread from heaven, 
that he might preserve it for his own salvation and 
that of all the world. A good and faithful servant 
was the Joseph to whom Mary, the Mother of the 
Saviour, was espoused ; a faithful and prudent 
servant whom our Lord chose for the comfort of 
His Mother and the nurse of His own childhood, as 
well as the only and most trustworthy co-operator 
in the Divine design. 

We read in this place that he was of the house of 
David. Yea, truly was this our Joseph descended 
from royal stock, a man of noble race and yet nobler 
mind, the son of David, in nothing degenerating 
from the nobility of David, his father. He was son 
of David less by kinship of blood than by inheritance 
of faith, of devotion, and of holiness of life a man 
whom, like another David, God found according 
to His own heart, and to whom He entrusted His 
most precious secret; to whom, as to David, He made 



46 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

manifest the uncertain and hidden things of his 
wisdom, and to whom He revealed a mystery hidden 
from the great ones of the world. To Joseph it 
was given to behold Him Whom many kings and 
prophets had desired to see and had not seen, to 
hear and had not heard. And not only was he 
allowed to behold Him and listen to His words, 
but he might bear Jesus in his arms, guide His 
steps, embrace and caress Him, feed and protect 
Him. 

It is also supposed that Mary was of the same 
house of David, otherwise she would not have been 
espoused to a man of that house. Both, then, were 
of the royal race ; but in Mary was fulfilled the truth 
which the Lord swore unto David ; in Joseph we 
have the witness of its fulfilment. The verse con 
cludes with the words : " And the virgin s name 
was Mary." 1 

We will dwell a while on this name, which is, 
rightly interpreted, " Star of the Sea," and is there 
fore admirably appropriate to the Virgin Mother. 
Fitly is she compared to a star, which, in giving forth 
its light, suffers no waning, since she brought forth 
her Son without stain to her virginity. As the ray 
of the star lessens not its brightness, so the Son of 
Mary detracted in no way from her integrity. She 
is therefore that glorious star which arose from 
Jacob, and which cast its radiance over the whole 
world the star whose splendour rejoices heaven, 
terrifies hell, and sheds its mild and beneficent 
influence on the poor exiles of earth. She is truly 
the Star which, being placed over this world s tern- 
1 St. Luke i. 27. 



ON THE " MISSUS EST 47 

pestuous sea, shines forth by the lustre of her merits 
and example. 

O you who find yourself tossed about by the 
storms of life, turn not your eyes from the brightness 
of this Star, if you would not be overwhelmed by 
its boisterous waves. If the winds of temptations 
rise, if you fall among the rocks of tribulations, look 
up at the Star, call on Mary. If anger, covetous- 
ness, or other passions beat on the vessel of your 
soul, look up to Mary. If you begin to sink in the 
gulf of melancholy and despair, think on Mary. In 
dangers, in distress, in perplexities, think on Mary, 
call on Mary. Let her not depart from your lips, 
let her not depart from your heart, and, that you 
may win the suffrage of her prayers, never depart 
from the example of her life. Following her, you 
will never go astray ; when you implore her aid, 
you will never yield to despair ; thinking on her, 
you will not err ; under her patronage you will never 
wander ; beneath her protection you will not 
fear ; she being your guide, you will not weary ; 
if she be your propitious Star, you will arrive 
safely in the port, and experience for yourself the 
truth of the words, " And the virgin s name was 
Mary." 

And let us not turn too rapidly from the brightness 
of this transcendant luminary, for, in the words of 
the Apostle, "It is good for us to be here." Let 
us, then, gaze in silent contemplation on that 
which words are powerless to explain. Thus 
shall we repair our spiritual powers, and be 
enabled to consider more fervently the points that 
follow. 



48 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 



HOMILY III 

COLLOQUY OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN AND 
THE ANGEL 

" WOE is me," says the Prophet, " because I have 
held my peace, because I am a man of unclean 
lips." 1 I, too, will say " Woe is me," not because 
I have held my peace, but because I have spoken, 
for I, too, " am a man of unclean lips." How 
many vain, erroneous, and unbecoming words hath 
not this my vile mouth uttered, which now pre 
sumes to speak of the things of heaven ! Would 
that there were brought to me from the altar above, 
not one " live coal " only, but a great ball of fire to 
touch and cleanse my unworthy lips, and make me fit 
to repeat the chaste and beautiful colloquies between 
the angel and the Virgin. The Evangelist says : 

" And the angel being come in to her " (that is, 
to Mary), " said, Hail, full of grace, the Lord is 
with thee." 2 Where did he come in to her ? I 
think into the secrecy of her virginal chamber, 
where perchance, having closed the door upon her, 
Mary was praying to her Father in secret. And it 
was not difficult for the angel to penetrate through 
the closed door into the inner chamber of the Virgin. 
Neither bolts nor bars could oppose the subtlety of 
his nature, to which all solid substances yield, and 
which bears him whither the impetus of his spirit 
leads him. We cannot suppose that he found her 
door unclosed, who so studiously avoided the 
1 Isa. vi. 5. 2 St. Luke i. 28. 



ON THE " MISSUS EST 49 

company and conversation of men, lest her recollec 
tion should be disturbed or her virtue threatened. 
Closed, therefore, at that hour was the dwelling of 
that most prudent Virgin, but to men, not to angels. 
For the angels are wont to be near those who pray ; 
they delight in beholding them raise their pure hands 
to heaven ; and with glad service they present to 
God the sacrifices of devotion which they offer in 
the odour of sweetness. How pleasing to the Most 
High were the prayers of Mary is well shown by 
the reverence with which the angel saluted her. 

Being come in to her, he said : " Hail, full of grace, 
the Lord is with thee." In the Acts of the Apostles 
we read that Stephen was full of grace, and that 
the Apostles were filled with the Holy Ghost, but 
their measure of grace was far other than Mary s. 
In her dwelt the fullness of the Godhead corporally. 
" Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee." What 
wonder that she was full of grace when the Lord 
was with her ? Rather, is it not wonderful that He 
Who had sent the angel was already found by him 
with the Virgin ? Had, then, God been swifter 
than the angel, and reached the earth before His 
messenger ? Oh yes ; for while the King was on 
His couch the spikenard of the Virgin gave forth 
its sweet perfume, and ascending into His glorious 
presence, found favour in His sight, while His 
ministers around exclaimed : " Who is she that goeth 
up by the desert, as a pillar of smoke of aromatical 
spices, of myrrh, and frankincense." 1 And straight 
way the King, going forth from His holy place, 
" rejoiced as a giant to run his way "; 2 and though 
1 Cant. iii. 6. 2 Ps. xviii. 6. 

4 



5 o SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

His going out is from the height of heaven, yet 
through exceeding desire He hastened on His way, 
and anticipated His messenger with the Virgin, 
whom He had loved, whom He had chosen for 
Himself, whose beauty He had desired. Beholding 
Him from afar, the Church exclaims exultingly : 
" Behold, He cometh leaping over the mountains, 
skipping over the hills." 1 Rightly had the King 
been desirous of the Virgin s beauty, for she had 
long before attended to the words of her father 
David : " Hear, O daughter, and see, and incline 
thine ear, and forget thy people and thy father s 
house, and the king shall desire thy beauty/ 2 She 
heard and saw, but not as those who, hearing, hear 
not, and seeing, do not understand. She heard and 
believed, she saw and understood. She inclined 
her ear to obedience and her heart to discipline, 
and forgot her people and her father s house. She 
cared not to multiply her people by offspring. The 
honour that might have been hers among her people, 
and the wealth that might have accrued to her from 
her family, she counted as dross that she might gain 
Christ. Not even the wish to call Christ her Son could 
lead her to violate her promised virginity. Truly, 
then, is she full of grace who clung to the grace of 
virginity, and also obtained the glory of fecundity. 
" Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee." He 
says not in thee, buftoith thee. God, Who is equally 
present everywhere, remains whole and entire by 
His simple substance and essence. He is present 
with rational creatures in many different ways. 
With the good alone He is present by love as well 
1 Cant. ii. 8. 2 Ps. xliv. n. 



ON THE "MISSUS EST " 51 

as by knowledge, so that He is with them by 
agreement of wills. While their wills are subject to 
justice and right reason, God does not disdain to 
will what they will, for their wills being conformed 
to His, they in a manner unite God to themselves. 
If God is thus present with all the saints, He is 
especially so with Mary, with whom He was so 
closely united as to have not only one will, but one 
flesh, for from His own Divine nature and from her 
virginal substance one Christ was made, Who, sharing 
both natures, was at once the Son of God and Son 
of the Virgin Mary. The angel therefore says : 
" Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee." Not 
only is there with thee God the Son, Whom thou 
dost clothe with thy flesh, but also God the Holy 
Ghost, of Whom thou dost conceive, and God 
the Father, Who begot Him, Who is to be thy Son. 
The Father is with thee who makes His Son to be 
thine ; the Son is with thee who institutes with thee 
a wondrous Sacrament, and yet preserves the seal of 
thy virginity. The Holy Spirit is with thee, and 
with the Father and the Son He sanctifies thy pure 
womb. The Lord," therefore, " is with thee. 
Blessed art thou amongst women." 

I love to add what Elizabeth soon after pro 
nounced, and " Blessed is the fruit of thy womb." 
Not that, because thou art blessed, the fruit of thy 
womb is also blessed, but because He prevented 
thee with the blessings of sweetness, therefore art 
thou blessed. Truly blessed is the fruit of thy 
womb, in whom all nations are blest, of whose full 
ness thou hast received as others have, but in a 
fuller measure. For this reason, therefore, thou art 

42 



52 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

blessed best " amongst women." He is called blessed 
not amongst men, nor amongst angels, but, as the 
Apostle says, " God blessed above all for ever." 1 

" Blessed, therefore, is the fruit of thy womb " 
blessed in sweet odour, blessed in sweet savour, 
blessed in beauty and comeliness of form. 

The fragrance of this odoriferous fruit was per 
ceived by him who said : " The smell of my son is as 
the smell of a plentiful field, which the Lord hath 
blessed "; 2 and is not he truly blessed who is blest 
by the Lord ? 

Of the sweet relish of this fruit one who had 
tasted of it exclaimed, " O taste and see how sweet 
is the Lord "; 3 and elsewhere, " O how great is 
the multitude of thy sweetness, Lord, which thou 
hast hidden for them that fear thee." 4 And Christ 
says of Himself while inviting us all to Him : " He 
that eateth me shall yet hunger, and he that drinketh 
me shall yet thirst." He said this because the sweet 
savour of this fruit, when once tasted, excites a 
greater appetite. Blessed fruit ! which is the food and 
drink of those who hunger and thirst after justice. 

You have heard of its fragrance and of its savour ; 
hear now of its beauty. For if the fruit which 
brought death into the world was not only sweet to 
the taste, but beautiful to the eye, as the Scripture 
testifies, much more ought we to seek for beauty in 
this fruit of life, " upon which," as another passage 
in Holy Scripture remarks, " the angels desire to 
look." 5 Its beauty was seen in spirit, and desired 
to be seen in the flesh by him who said : " Out of 

1 Rom. ix. 5. 2 Gen. xxvii. 27. 3 Ps. xxxiii. 9. 
4 Ps. xxx. 20. 5 i Pet. i. 12. 



ON THE " MISSUS EST " 53 

Sion the loveliness of his beauty." 1 And, lest you 
should think lightly of the beauty here commended, 
remember what is said in another Psalm : " Beautiful 
above the sons of men, grace is poured abroad on 
thy lips, therefore God hath blessed thee for ever." 
" Blessed, then, is the fruit of thy womb," whom 
God hath blest for ever, and by whom thou thyself, 
O Mary, art blessed amongst women, because an 
evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit. 

Blessed art thou amongst women, who didst 
escape that universal curse, " In sorrow thou shalt 
bring forth children " ; and that other, " Cursed is 
the barren in Israel." Thou hast obtained the 
singular blessing of neither remaining sterile, nor 
bringing forth in sorrow. But who has taught thee, 
prudent Virgin, devout Virgin, that virginity is 
pleasing to God ? What page of the Old Testament 
exhorted thee, what ordinance counselled thee, 
what law commanded thee to live in the flesh, yet 
not according to the flesh, and lead on earth the 
life of the angels ? Where didst thou read that 
the " wisdom of the flesh is death," 2 and that we 
are not to " make provision for the flesh in its concu 
piscences "? 3 Where didst thou read of virgins that 
they sing a new song no other can sing, and that 
they follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth ? 
Where didst thou read that they are praised who 
have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom 
of heaven ? Where didst thou find that "though 
we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to 
the flesh "; 4 and that " he that giveth his virgin in 

1 Ps. xlix. 2. 2 Rom. viii. 6. 3 Rom. xiii. 14. 

4 2 Cor. x. 3. 



54 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

marriage doth well ; but he that giveth her not, doth 
better "P 1 Where didst thou hear, " I would that 
all men were as myself "; and "it is good for a man, 
if he so remain according to my counsel " ? The 
unction of the Holy Spirit, Virgin, has taught 
thee all these things. 

Before becoming thy Son God has been thy 
Master. Thou dost vow thyself as a chaste virgin 
to Christ, and thou knowest not thou shalt be His 
Mother. Thou wilt conceive, but without sin ; thou 
wilt bring forth, but without sorrow ; thou knowest 
not man, but thou wilt bear a Son. What Son ? 
Thou wilt be Mother of Him whose Father is God. 
The Son of the Father s love will be the crown of thy 
chastity ; the wisdom of the Father s mind will be 
the fruit of thy virginal womb. Of God, therefore, 
thou wilt conceive, and thou wilt bring forth a God. 
Take courage, then, fruitful Virgin, chaste Mother, 
spotless Mother ; thou wilt no longer be accursed in 
Israel, nor reckoned among the barren. Thou wilt 
be blessed on earth by the angel, and all generations 
of the earth shall call thee blessed. " Blessed art 
thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy 
womb." 

" And when she had heard, she was troubled at 
his saying, and thought with herself what manner 
of salutation this might be." Virgins who deserve 
the name are ever timid ; they never think them 
selves secure ; and while avoiding what ought to be 
feared, they fear where there is no danger. They 
know that they bear a precious treasure in fragile 
vessels ; that it is difficult to live among men an 
1 i Cor. vii. 38. 



ON THE "MISSUS EST " 55 

angelic life, to converse on earth after the manner of 
the celestial spirits, to lead on earth a holy life in 
mortal flesh. In every unforeseen occurrence they 
suspect some snare for their virtue, and therefore 
Mary was troubled at the words of the angel. She 
was troubled, but not disturbed. " I was troubled," 
says the Psalmist, " and I spoke not. I thought 
upon the days of old, and I had in my mind the 
eternal years." 1 Mary was troubled, and spoke not ; 
she thought what manner of salutation this might 
be. That she was troubled proves her virginal 
modesty ; that she was not disturbed, her fortitude ; 
her thoughtful silence shows her prudence. 

" She thought what manner of salutation this 
might be." This prudent Virgin knew how often 
Satan transforms himself into an angel of light, and 
because she was singularly simple and humble, she 
did not expect to hear such words addressed to her 
by the angel, so she thought with herself what 
manner of salutation this might be. Then the 
angel, looking on the Virgin, and easily reading the 
conflicting thoughts that were passing through her 
mind, encouraged her in her timidity and in her 
doubt. Calling her by her name, he gently per 
suaded her not to fear. 

" Fear not, Mary, thou hast found grace with 
God. There is here no deception, no falsehood. 
Thou needest fear no fraud, no snare, no delusion. 
I am not a man, but a spirit ; I am an angel of God, 
not a minister of Satan. Fear not, Mary, thou hast 
found grace with God. Oh, if thou didst know 
how pleasing thy humility is to the Most High, 
1 Ps. Ixxvi. 5, 6. 



56 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

what a sublime exaltation awaits thee in His sight, 
thou wouldst not judge thyself unworthy of the 
conversation, nor even of the homage, of angels ! 
Why think thyself undeserving the favour of angels 
when thou hast found favour with God ? Thou 
hast found what thou hadst sought, what none before 
thee had been able to find thou hast found grace 
before God. What grace ? The grace of peace 
and reconciliation between God and man, the 
destruction of death the reparation of life. This 
is the grace thou hast found with God. And let 
this be a sign to thee. Thou shalt conceive and 
bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name 
Jesus. Understand from the name of the promised 
Son, prudent Virgin, how great and what a special 
grace thou hast found with God." 

" And thou shalt call his name Jesus." Another 
Evangelist gives the reason of this name : " Because 
he shall save his people from their sins." 1 I have 
read of two men who bore the name of this our 
Jesus ; both went before Him and prefigured Him, 
and both were serviceable to their people. One 
conducted his brethren into the Land of Promise ; 
the other led forth his people from the captivity 
of Babylon. Both did, indeed, defend those they 
governed from their enemies, but they did not save 
them from their sins. But this our Jesus saves His 
people, and washes away their sins, and likewise 
introduces them into the land of the living. " For 
he shall save his people from their sins." 

Who is this that forgiveth sins also ? Would that 
the Lord Jesus would deign to number me, a sinner, 
1 St. Matt. i. 21. 



ON THE "MISSUS EST " 57 

among His people, and save me from my sins. Truly, 
blessed are the people that have our Lord Jesus 
for their God, for He will save His people from their 
sins. But I fear there are many who profess to be 
of His people, but whom He does not recognize as 
such. I fear that to many who are counted among 
the more religious-minded of His people He will 
say : " This people honoureth me with their lips, 
but their hearts are far from me/ 1 For the Lord 
Jesus knoweth who are His, and whom He hath 
chosen from the beginning. " Why do you call me 
Lord, Lord, and do not the things I command you ?" 2 

Would you know if you belong to His people, or, 
rather, do you wish to be one of His disciples ? Do 
what Jesus commands, and He will number you 
among His followers. Fulfil what He enjoins in the 
Gospel, what He prescribes in the Law and the 
Prophets, what He ordains through His ministers 
in the Church. Obey His representatives ; obey 
your superiors, not only the good and gentle, but 
even the froward ; and learn of Jesus Himself to 
be meek and humble of heart. You will then belong 
to the blessed people whom He has chosen for His 
inheritance, and of whom He bears witness, saying : 
" A people, which I knew not, hath served me : at 
the hearing of the ear they have obeyed me." 3 

But let us consider what the angel thinks of Him, 
Whom he would willingly himself have called by the 
name of Jesus. He says : " He shall be great, and 
shall be called the Son of the Most High." Great 
indeed is He Who deserves to be called the Son of 

1 St. Matt. xv. 8, and Isa. xxix. 13. 2 St. Luke vi. 46. 
3 Ps. xvii. 45. 



58 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

the Most High. Is not He great whose immensity 
knows no limitation ? Who is great as the Lord 
our God ? It is He Who is as great as He is high 
yea, Who is Most High. As " Son of the Most High/ 
He thought it not robbery to equal Himself to the 
Most High. Satan, indeed, meditated robbery. 
Though made out of nothing in angelic form, he 
compared himself with his Maker, and arrogated 
to himself what belonged of right to the Son of the 
Most High, the Son not made by God, but begotten 
of Him. For the Most High God the Father, 
though Omnipotent, could not make a creature 
equal to Himself, nor beget a Son who was not His 
equal. He made the angel great, but not as Himself, 
therefore not Most High. In one alone did He 
think it no robbery that He should equal Himself 
with Him in all things ; the only-begotten Son, Who 
was not made, but begotten, by the Omnipotent, 
Omnipotent ; by the Most High, Most High ; by 
the Eternal, Co-eternal. Rightly, then, shall He be 
great Who shall be called the Son of the Most High. 

But why is it said " He shall be," and not, rather, 
" He is," great, since He is always equally great, and 
can have no increase ? He will not be more exalted 
after His conception than He was before. Perhaps 
the angel would have us understand that He Who 
was great as God will be great as man. Elsewhere 
in the Gospel we read, " A great Prophet hath risen 
up amongst us." 1 

O Virgin, thou wilt indeed give birth to a Little 
One, thou wilt nourish a Little One ; but while thou 
lookest on Him as little, think upon Him as great. 
1 St. Luke vii. 16. 



ON THE " MISSUS EST " 59 

He will be great, because God will magnify Him in 
the sight of kings ; wherefore let all the kings adore 
Him and all nations serve Him. Let thy soul 
magnify the Lord, for " He shall be great, and shall 
be called the Son of the Most High." 

He shall be great ; and " He that is mighty shall 
do great things for thee, and Holy is his name." 
What name holier than " Son of the Most High " ? 
This great Lord shall be magnified also by us little 
ones ; for He became a Little One that He might 
make us great. " A Child is born to us, a Son is 
given to us." 1 " To us," not to Himself ; for He 
Who before all ages was much more nobly born of 
His Father needed not in time to be born of a 
Mother. Nor was He born and given to the angels. 
They Who possessed Him in His greatness did not 
require Him in His lowliness. To us, then, He is 
born, to us He is given, because by us He is so 
greatly needed. And since He is born of our race 
and given to us, let us accomplish that for which 
He was born and given. Let us make use of Our 
Own for our profit ; let us work out our salvation 
by means of our Saviour. Behold, " a Child is set 
in the midst." O Little One, desired by little 
ones ! O true Child, but a guileless Child full of 
wisdom ! Let us study to become as this Little 
One. Let us learn to be meek and humble of heart, 
lest the great God should without fruit have become 
Man and a Child ; lest He should have died in vain 
and been crucified in vain. Let us learn His 
humility ; let us imitate His meekness ; let us embrace 
His love ; let us share His sufferings ; let us be 
1 Isa. ix. 6. 



60 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

washed in His blood ; let us offer Him as a propitia 
tion for our sins. To this end He was born and given 
to us. Let us offer Him to His Father, for the 
Father spared not His own Son, but delivered Him 
for us all ; and the Son emptied Himself, taking the 
form of a servant, and delivered " His soul to 
death/ and was reputed with the wicked ; He bore 
the sins of many, and prayed for the transgressors, 
that they might not perish. But they cannot perish 
for whom the Son prays, and for whom the Father 
delivers His own Son to procure them life. From 
both, therefore, equally may we hope for pardon, 
because in both are equal mercy and compassion, 
equal power, one will, one substance in Godhead, 
wherein with them the Holy Ghost liveth and 
reigneth one God for ever and ever. Amen. 



HOMILY IV 

THE ANNUNCIATION AND THE BLESSED 
VIRGIN S CONSENT 

WHO doubts that the praises we give to the 
Mother of God redound to the honour of the Son of 
God ; and, in like manner, that in honouring the 
Son we are also honouring the Mother ? For if, 
according to Solomon, " A wise son is the glory of 
the father," 1 how much more glorious is it to become 
the Mother of Wisdom Himself ! 

But how shall I dare to commend her whose 
praises are announced by Prophets, spoken by an 
angel, recorded by the Evangelist ? I will not praise, 
1 Prov. x. i. 



ON THE " MISSUS EST " 61 

because I do not dare ; I will but repeat with all 
devotion what the Holy Spirit Himself has spoken 
by the Evangelist, for the words of the text are : 
" And the Lord will give him the throne of David 
his father/ These are the words of the angel to 
the Virgin declaring that her promised Son should 
possess the kingdom of David. We all know that 
our Lord Jesus sprang from the race of David ; but 
how, I ask, did God give Him the throne of His 
father David, since He never reigned in Jerusalem ? 
On the contrary, when the multitude desired it, He 
would not consent to be their King, and before Pilate 
He protested that His kingdom was not of this 
world. Besides, what great gain was it for Him 
Who sits upon the Cherubim, and Whom the Prophet 
saw " upon a throne high and elevated," 1 to be pro 
mised the throne of His father David ? But we 
know that another Jerusalem is signified by the 
Jerualem that now is, one far nobler and richer 
than that in which David reigned. And I believe 
it to be here understood, because we often find in 
Scripture the figure put for that which is typified. 
Evidently God gave our Lord the throne of His 
father David when He " constituted Him King upon 
Sion, His holy mount." 2 And the Prophet seems 
to show more plainly of what kingdom he spoke 
when he said not in Sion, but upon Sion. David 
reigned in Sion. Upon Sion points out the kingdom 
of Him of Whom it is said to David, " Of the fruit 
of thy womb I will put to sit upon thy throne," 3 
and of whom another Prophet speaks, " He shall sit 
upon the throne of David and upon his kingdom." 4 
1 Isa. vi. i. 2 Ps. ii. 6. 3 Ps. cxxxi. n. 4 Isa. ix. 7. 



62 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

In each text we find upon. " The Lord God, there 
fore, will give him the throne of David his father " 
not a typical but a true throne, not temporal but 
eternal, not earthly but celestial. And what has 
been said above shows that David so regarded it, 
for the throne in which he reigned as temporal 
sovereign bore the image of the eternal one. 

" And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for 
ever, and his kingdom shall have no end/ 1 Here 
also, if we understand the temporal house of Jacob, 
how can we say that Christ will reign eternally, since 
that house is not eternal ? We have therefore yet to 
find the eternal house of Jacob in which He shall 
reign eternall}/, whose kingdom shall have no end. 
Question the Apostle, and he will point out to you 
the difference between him who is a Jew inwardly 
and him who is only outwardly a Jew ; between the 
circumcision of the spirit and the circumcision 
which is only of the flesh 2 that is, between the 
spiritual and the carnal Jew, the children of the 
faith of Abraham and the children according to the 
flesh. " For all are not Israelites that are of Israel. 
Neither are all they that are of the seed of Abraham, 
children." 3 In like manner we may look upon those 
alone who are found perfect in the faith of Jacob, or 
Israel, as constituting the spiritual and eternal house 
of Jacob in which the Lord Jesus shall reign eternally. 

Who is there amongst us who, according to the 
interpretation of the name Jacob, makes Jesus 
Christ supplant the devil in his heart ? Who is 
there that struggles with his vices and concupiscences 
that sin may not reign in his mortal body, but that 

1 St. Luke i. 32, 33. 2 Col. ii. u. 3 Rom. ix. 6, 7. 



ON THE "MISSUS EST " 63 

in him Jesus may reign, now, indeed, by grace, 
afterwards eternally by glory ? Blessed are they in 
whom Jesus shall reign eternally, for they also shall 
reign with Him, and of His kingdom there shall be 
no end. Oh, how glorious is that kingdom in which 
Kings have assembled, and have agreed together to 
praise and glorify Him Who is King of Kings and 
Lord of Lords ; in the glorious contemplation of 
Whom the just shall shine as the sun in the kingdom 
of their Father ! Oh, may our Lord Jesus deign to 
be mindful of me, a sinner, when He cometh in His 
kingdom. In that day when He shall give up His 
kingdom into the hands of God and the Father, may 
He graciously visit me in His saving mercy, may He 
look on me in goodness as one of His elect, may He 
rejoice me with the joy of His chosen people, and be 
praised even by me with all His inheritance ! Come, 
Lord Jesus, take away scandals from Thy kingdom, 
which is my soul, and reign therein, Thou Who alone 
hast the right. For avarice comes to claim a throne 
within me ; haughtiness and self-assertion would 
rule over me ; pride would be my king ; luxury says, 
" I will reign " ; ambition, detraction, envy, and 
anger struggle within me for the mastery. I resist 
as far as I am able ; I struggle according as help is 
given me ; I call on my Lord Jesus ; for His sake I 
defend myself, since I acknowledge myself as wholly 
His possession. He is my God ; Him alone I cling 
to, Him I proclaim my Lord ; I have no other King 
than my Lord Jesus Christ. Come, then, Lord, 
and disperse these enemies in Thy power, and Thou 
shalt reign in me, for Thou Thyself art my King and 
my God, Who givest salvation to Thy chosen ones. 



64 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

" But Mary said to the angel : How shall this 
be done, because I know not man ?" At first she 
kept a prudent silence, for she was in doubt what this 
salutation might be, and she preferred in humility 
to give no answer rather than risk speaking of what 
she did not understand. Now, however, she was 
strengthened and prepared, for while the angel spoke 
externally God disposed her heart, for the Lord was 
present with her when the angel said, " The Lord 
is with thee." 

Thus animated to cast out fear by a spirit of faith, 
she said to the angel : " How shall this be done, for 
I know not man ?" She doubts not the fact, but 
only inquires about the manner of its accomplish 
ment. She says not " Will it be done ?" but " How 
will this be done ?" As if she would say : " Since 
my Lord knows, and my conscience bears me witness, 
that His handmaid has made a vow to know no 
man, by what law shall it please Him to work this 
wonder ? If I must break my vow that I may 
bring forth such a Son, I rejoice on account of the 
Son, but I grieve because of my vow. Nevertheless, 
His will be done. If, however, as a Virgin I may 
bring forth this Son and it is not impossible if He 
so will it then I shall know that He hath had 
regard to the humility of His handmaid. How, 
then, shall this be done, for I know not man ?" 

" And the angel, answering, said to her : The 
Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of 
the Most High shall overshadow thee." It had been 
said before that she was full of grace ; how is it now 
said : " The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and 
the power of the Most High shall overshadow 



ON THE "MISSUS EST 65 

thee " ? Could she be filled with grace and not 
possess the Holy Spirit, the giver of all grace ? 
And if He is already in her, how is it promised that 
He shall come upon her in some new way ? Was it 
not to explain this to us that the angel said not 
merely " in thee/ but also " upon thee " ? For the 
Holy Spirit was in her before His coming by an 
abundant grace ; now it is declared that He will come 
upon her by the fullness of the more abundant grace 
which He will pour out upon her. 

But how will she be able to receive a fresh 
infusion of Divine grace when she is already full 
of grace ? And if she can receive more, how are we 
to understand that she is already full of grace ? 
Was it that hitherto grace had only filled her mind 
and soul, and that the new infusion of it was to 
penetrate her body, so that the plenitude of the 
Divinity which had hitherto dwelt in her spiritually 
as He dwells in many of the saints might begin to 
abide in her corporally as He has never dwelt in any 
other saint ? Yes, this is what the angel reveals to 
us. The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and 
the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee." 

" And therefore also the Holy One which shall be 
born of thee shall be called the Son of God." That 
is to say, " Since it is not of man, but of the Holy 
Ghost, that you conceive, and since "you conceive by 
the Power of the Most High, therefore what is born 
of thee is holy, and shall be called the Son of God." 
In like manner, " He Who was born of the Father 
before all ages will also be called your Son. What 
was born of the Father shall be thine ; what shall be 
born of thee shall be His ; yet there will not be two 

5 



66 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

Sons, but one Son/ and "therefore the Holy One that 
shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God." 

" And behold thy cousin Elizabeth, she also hath 
conceived a son in her old age." Why was it 
necessary to make known this event to the Blessed 
Virgin ? Had she been doubtful or incredulous of 
the angel s words ? Far from it. We read that the 
hesitation of Zachary was punished by this same 
angel, but we do not read that Mary received the 
least blame ; on the contrary, we know that her 
faith was praised by Elizabeth : " Blessed art thou 
that hast believed, because those things shall be 
accomplished that were spoken to thee by the 
Lord." Her cousin s happiness was announced to 
Mary that, miracle being added to miracle, joy might 
be heaped upon joy. For it was needful that no 
ordinary prevenient joy and burning love should 
take possession of her who, with the joy of the Holy 
Ghost, was soon to conceive the Son of the Father s 
love. A most glad and most generous heart was 
alone capable of containing so exuberant an influx 
of sweetness and delight. 

Again, the announcement may have been made 
to Mary, in order that she might be cognizant, not 
only of the Saviour s coming, but also of His 
precursors, and that, by preserving a faithful 
remembrance of the order and circumstances of the 
events, she might later be better able to unfold the 
truth of the Gospel to those who were to write and 
preach it. This was the rightful office of her who 
from the first had been fully instructed by Heaven 
in all its secret mysteries. Or we may believe that 
Mary was told of Elizabeth s happiness to give her, 



CN THE "MISSUS EST " 67 

the younger of the two, the opportunity of tendering 
her loving service to her cousin, and that the little 
unborn Prophet might offer to his younger Lord the 
first-fruits of his ministry, while the joy and devotion 
of both infants being excited by the meeting and 
mutual joy of the mothers, wonder might be added 
to wonder, miracle to miracle. 

Lest, however, it should be supposed that the 
accomplishment of these magnificent promises was 
brought about by the angel who declares them, he 
adds : " For no word shall be impossible to God." 
As if he would say : " In all that I faithfully promise 
I rest not on my own power, but on the power of 
Him Who sent me, for no word shall be impossible 
with Him." How could any word be impossible to 
Him Who made all things by the Word ? And this 
is striking that the angel expressly says no word 
shall be impossible, not no act. He says word 
because, as men can easily speak what they wish, 
even though they cannot afterwards carry it into 
effect, with the same or, rather, with incomparably 
greater facility can God accomplish in act what 
they are able to express in words ; therefore with 
good reason " no word is impossible with God." 
For instance, the Prophets by God s power could 
foresee and predict that a virgin and a barren 
woman would have sons ; but God alone, Who 
enabled the Prophets to foresee these events, could 
by His own power fulfil what He had promised. 
Because, too, He is Infinite Power and Infinite 
Wisdom, " no word shall be impossible with " Him. 

You have heard, O Virgin, the announcement of 
the great mystery ; the means designed for its fulfil- 

52 



68 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

ment have been unfolded to you, each wondrous, 
each replete with joy. " Rejoice, O daughter of 
Sion, and exult exceedingly, O virgin daughter of 
Jerusalem." 1 And because to you has been given 
joy and gladness, allow us to hear from your lips the 
answer and the good tidings which we desire, that 
the bones that have been humbled may rejoice. 
You have heard the fact, and have believed ; believe 
also in the means which have been explained to you. 
You have heard that you are to conceive and bring 
forth a Son, and that it will not be through the power 
of man, but by the virtue of the Holy Ghost. 

The angel awaits your reply, for it is time that 
he should return to God, Who sent him. We, too, 
are waiting, O Lady, for a word of mercy we, who 
are groaning under the sentence of condemnation. 
See, the price of our salvation is offered to you ; if 
you consent, we shall at once be delivered. By the 
Eternal Word of God we were all created, and 
behold we die. By your short answer we shall be 
refreshed and recalled to life. Adam, with all his 
race Adam, a weeping exile from Paradise, implores 
it of you. Abraham entreats you, David beseeches 
you. This is the object of the burning desires of the 
holy fathers, of your fathers, who are still dwelling in 
the region of the shades of death. Behold the entire 
human race prostrate at your feet in expectation. 

And rightly, for on your word depend the consola 
tion of the wretched, the redemption of the captive, 
the freedom of the condemned, the salvation of your 
entire race, of all the children of Adam. Hasten, 
then, O Lady, to give your answer ; hasten to speak 
1 Zach. ix. 9. 



ON THE " MISSUS EST 69 

the word so longed for by all on earth, in limbo, and 
in heaven. Yea, the King and Lord of all things, 
Who has greatly desired your beauty, desires as 
eagerly your word of consent, by which He has 
purposed to save the world. He whom you have 
pleased by your silence will now be more gratified 
by your reply. 

Hark ! He calls to you from heaven : " most 
beautiful among women, give me to hear your 
voice." If you let Him hear your voice, He will 
enable you to see our salvation. And is not this 
what you have sought for, what you have prayed for 
night and day with sighs and tears ? Why, then, 
delay ? Are you the happy one to whom it has 
been promised, or " look we for another " ? Yes, 
you indeed are that most fortunate one. You are 
the promised virgin, the expected virgin, the much- 
longed-for virgin, through whom your holy father 
Jacob, when about to die, rested his hope of eternal 
life, saying : " I will look for thy salvation, O Lord." 1 

You, O Mary, are that virgin in whom and by 
whom God Himself, our King before all ages, deter 
mined to operate our salvation in the midst of the 
earth. Why do you humbly expect from another 
what is offered to you, and will soon be manifested 
through yourself if you will but yield your consent 
and speak the word ? Answer, then, quickly to the 
angel yes, through the angel give your consent to 
your God. Answer the word, receive the Word. Utter 
yours, conceive the Divine. Speak the word that is 
transitory, and embrace the Word that is everlasting. 

Why do you delay ? Why are you fearful ? 
1 Gen. xlix. 18. 



70 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

Believe confess receive. Let humility put on 
courage, and timidity ^confidence. It is certainly 
by no means fitting that virginal simplicity should 
forget prudence. Yet in this one case only the 
prudent virgin need not fear presumption, because, 
though modesty shone forth in her silence, it is now 
more necessary that her devotion and obedience 
should be revealed by her speech. 

Open, Blessed Virgin, your heart to faith, your 
lips to compliance, your bosom to your Creator. 
Behold, the desired of all nations stands at the gate 
and knocks. Oh, suppose He were to pass by while 
you delay ! How would you begin again with 
sorrow to seek Him whom your soul loveth ! Arise 
run open ! Arise by faith, run by devotion, open 
by acceptance. Mary speaks. " Behold the hand 
maid of the Lord, may it be done unto me according 
to thy word." 

Humility is ever the close companion of Divine 
grace, for " God resist eth the proud, and giveth 
grace to the humble." She answers humbly, there 
fore, that the throne of grace may be prepared. 
" Behold the handmaid of the Lord." She is the 
chosen Mother of God, and she calls herself His 
handmaid. Truly, it is no small sign of humility to 
preserve even the remembrance of the virtue in 
presence of so great glory. It is no great perfection 
to be humble when we are despised ; but it is a 
great and rare virtue to preserve humility in the 
midst of honours. If, deceived by my apparent 
virtue, the Church has raised me, an insignificant 
man, to some small dignity, God permitting it, either 
because of my own sins, or those of my subjects, do 



ON THE " MISSUS EST " 71 

I not immediately, forgetting my past deficiencies, 
imagine myself to be that which men, who see not 
the heart, have reputed me to be ? I hearken to 
fame, and attend not to conscience. I forget that 
honour is rendered to virtue, and take the virtue for 
granted because of the honour, and so esteem myself 
the more holy when I find myself in an exalted 
position. Let us listen to the words of her who, 
though chosen to be the Mother of God, yet laid not 
aside her humility. " Behold," she says, " the 
handmaid of the Lord, may it be done unto me 
according to thy word." 

Fiat mihi (Be it done to me). Fiat is a mark of 
desire, not of doubt. In saying, " Be it done unto 
me according to thy word," she expresses the dis 
position of one who longs to see the effect, not of one 
who doubts its possibility. Fiat may also be under 
stood as a word of petition, for no one prays unless 
he believes, and hopes to obtain. God wishes to 
be asked for what He has promised, and perhaps 
promises many things which He had predetermined 
to bestow, in order that the promise may arouse our 
devotion, and that what He intends to give gratis 
we may merit by devout prayer. Thus, our gracious 
God, Who desires the salvation of all, as it were, 
extorts meritorious works from us, and while He 
strengthens our will by His grace, He wishes that 
what He gives freely we shall labour to obtain. 

This the prudent Virgin understood when to the 
prevenient grace of a gratuitous promise she joined 
the merit of her own prayer, saying : " Be it done 
unto me according to thy word." 

Be it done unto me concerning the Divine Word 



72 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

according to Thy word. May the Word which was 
in the beginning with God be made flesh of my flesh 
according to Thy word. May He, I entreat, be 
made to me, not a spoken word, to pass unheeded, 
but a word conceived that is, clothed in flesh 
which may remain. May He be to me not only 
audible to my ears, but visible to my eyes, felt by 
my hands, borne in my arms. Let Him be to me 
not a mute and written word traced with dumb 
signs on lifeless parchments, but an Incarnate, living 
Word vividly impressed in human form in my chaste 
womb by the operation of the Holy Ghost. 

Be it done unto me as it has never hitherto been 
done to mortal, and never shall be done to any after 
my time. " God diversely and in many ways spoke in 
times past to the fathers by the prophets" 1 to some 
in the hearing of the ears, while to others the word 
of the Lord was made known in signs and figures. 
Now in this solemn hour I pray that in my own being 
it may be done unto me according to Thy word. 

Be it done unto me not preached to me in the 
feeble strains of human eloquence, not shown forth 
to me in the figures of earthly rhetoric, not painted 
in the poetic dreams of a fervid imagination, but 
breathed upon me in silence, in person Incarnate, in 
a human form veritably reposing within me. In 
His own nature the Word needed not change, was 
incapable of change. Yet now graciously in me 
" may it be done according to thy word." Be it 
done universally for all mankind, but most especially 
for me " Be it done unto me according to thy 
word." 

1 Heb. i. i. 



Ill 

ON THE VIGIL OF OUR LORD S 
NATIVITY 



ON THE JOY HIS BIRTH SHOULD INSPIRE 

" The voice of gladness hath resounded in our land, the 
voice of exultation and salvation in the tents of sinners. 
A good word has been heard, a consoling word, a speech 
full of joy fulness, a rumour worthy of all acceptance. 
Sing praise, O ye mountains, and all ye trees of the woods. 
Clap your hands before the face of the Lord, because He 
cometh. Hear, O ye heavens, and give ear, O earth ! 
Be amazed, and let every creature give praise ; but thou 
beyond others, O man !" 

JESUS CHRIST, the Son of God, is born in Bethlehem 
of Juda. 

What heart so stony as not to be softened at 
these words ? What soul is not melted at this 
voice of her Beloved ? What announcement could 
be sweeter ? what intelligence more enrapturing ? 
Was its like ever heard before ? or when did the 
world ever receive such tidings ? 

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is born in Bethlehem 
of Juda. 

O short word, telling of the Eternal Word abbre 
viated for us ! O word full of heavenly delights ! 
The heart is oppressed by its mellifluous sweetness, 
and longs to pour forth its redundant riches, but 
words refuse their service. So overpowering is the 
music of this short speech that it loses melody if one 
iota is changed. 

75 



76 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is born in Bethlehem 
of Juda. 

O Nativity of spotless sanctity ! O birth honour 
able for the world, birth pleasing and welcome to 
men, because of the magnificence of the benefit it 
bestows ; birth incomprehensible to the angels, by 
reason of the depth and sacredness of the mystery ! 
In all its circumstances it is wonderful because of 
its singular excellence and novelty. Its precedent 
has not been known, nor has its like ever followed. 
birth alone without sorrow, alone without shame, 
free from corruption, not unlocking, but conse 
crating the temple of the Virgin s womb ! 
Nativity above nature, yet for the sake of nature ! 
Surpassing it by the excellence of the miracle, 
repairing it by the virtue of the mystery ! Who 
shall declare this generation ? The angel announces 
it. Almighty Power overshadows it. The Spirit of 
the Most High comes upon it. The Virgin believes. 
By faith she conceives. The Virgin brings forth. 
The Virgin remains a virgin. Who is not filled with 
astonishment ? The Son of the Most High is born. 
The Son, begotten of God before all ages, is Incar 
nate ! The Word is become an Infant ! Who can 
sufficiently admire ? 

And it is not a needless Nativity, a superfluous 
condescension of Infinite Majesty. 

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is born in Bethlehem 
of Juda. 

Awake, you who lie in the dust awake and give 
praise. Behold, the Lord cometh with salvation. 
He comes with salvation, He comes with unction, 
He comes with glory. Jesus cannot come without 



ON THE VIGIL OF OUR LORD S NATIVITY 77 

salvation, Christ cannot come without unction, nor 
the Son of God without glory. For He Himself is 
salvation, He is unction, He is glory, as it is written, 
" A wise son is the glory of his father." 1 

Happy the soul who has tasted this fruit of 
salvation, and is drawn to " run in the odour of 
his ointments/ 2 that she may " see his glory, the 
glory as of the only-begotten of the Father." 
Take courage, you who were lost : Jesus comes to 
seek and save that which was lost. Ye sick, return 
to health : Christ comes to heal the contrite of heart 
with the unction of His mercy. Rejoice, all you 
who desire great things : the Son of God comes down 
to you that He may make you the co-heirs of His 
kingdom. I beseech you, then, Lord, heal me, 
and I shall be healed ; save me, and I shall be saved ; 
glorify me, and I shall be glorious. Then indeed 
shall my soul bless the Lord, and all that is within 
me praise His Holy Name, when He shall have been 
merciful to my iniquities, have healed my infirmities, 
and have filled my desire with good things. 

On account of these three precious gifts of salva 
tion, unction, and glory, it is consoling to hear that 
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is born. For why is 
He called Jesus, but because He shall save His 
people from their sins ? Why has He willed to be 
named Christ, but because He will soften the yoke of 
His law by the unction of His grace ? Why was the 
Son of God made man, but to make men the sons of 
God ? Who shall resist His will ? If Jesus justifies, 
who can condemn ? If Christ heals, who can wound ? 
If the Son of God exalts, who shall cast us down ? 
1 Prov. x. i. 2 Cant. i. 3. 



78 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

Since Jesus is born, let everyone rejoice whom 
the consciousness of sin has condemned as deserving 
of eternal punishment. For the compassion of 
Jesus exceeds all crimes, however great their number 
and enormity. Since Christ is born, let him rejoice 
who wages war with the vices inherent in our nature. 
No disorder of the soul, how inveterate soever, can 
withstand the unction which Christ brings. Since 
the Son of God is born, let him rejoice who desires 
great things, for a great re warder comes. This is 
the heir " ; let us receive Him devoutly, " and the in 
heritance shall be ours." For He Who has given 
us His own Son, how has He not with Him given 
us all things ? Let no one disbelieve, let no one 
doubt ; we have a most trustworthy testimony. 
" The Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst us." 

The only-begotten Son of God desired to have 
brethren, that He might be the first among many 
brethren. Even human frailty has no cause to 
hesitate. He has become the brother of men ; He 
has become the Son of man ; He has become man. 
" Et Homo factus est." And, if man thinks this 
incredible, sense enforces belief. 

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is born in Bethlehem 
of Juda. 

Behold what condescension ! It is not in the 
royal city of Jerusalem, but in Bethlehem, which is 
the least of the thousands of Juda. O Bethlehem ! 
O little Bethlehem ! once little, now magnified by 
the Lord ! He has magnified thee Who, though 
great, became little in thee. 

Rejoice, O Bethlehem, and make holiday in thy 
streets with songs of Alleluia ! What city on hearing 



ON THE VIGIL OF OUR LORD S NATIVITY 79 

of thy good fortune will not envy thee that most 
precious stable and the glory of its manger ? In all 
the wide world thy name is now celebrated, and all 
generations call thee blessed. Everywhere glorious 
things are said of thee, O little city of God. Every 
where is sung, " A man is born in her, and the Most 
High himself hath founded her." 1 Everywhere it 
is proclaimed, everywhere it is made known that 

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is born in Bethlehem 
of Juda. 

Nor is it idly added " of Juda." This word re 
minds us of God s promise to our fathers. " The 
sceptre shall not be taken from Juda, nor the leader 
from his thigh, until he come who is to be sent, 
and he shall be the expectation of nations." 2 " For 
salvation is of the Jews ;" 3 " salvation to the ends 
of the earth." 4 To Juda Jacob says : " Thee shall 
thy brethren praise : thy hands shall be on the 
necks of thy enemies." 5 All these words we see 
fulfilled in Christ, Who, ascending on high, led 
captivity captive, yet derived no earthly advantage 
therefrom, but rather gave gifts to men. These 
and similar prophecies are recalled to the mind by 
the words " Bethlehem of Juda." 

And we have no need to inquire whether any 
thing good can come from Bethlehem ; it is suffi 
cient for us to know that our Lord willed to be 
born there. For doubtless there were in the 
world noble palaces which He might have judged 
worthy of His choice palaces where the King of 
Glory might have been received more honourably ; 

1 Ps. Ixxxvi. 3, 5. 2 Gen. xlix. 10. 3 St. John iv. 22. 
4 Acts xiii. 47, and Isa. xlix. 6. 5 Gen. xlix. 8. 



8o SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

but it was not to purchase them that He came from 
His royal throne. In his left hand were riches and 
glory ; in His right hand length of days. 1 There 
was an endless supply of these treasures in heaven, 
but poverty could not be found there. Earth 
abounded and superabounded in this kind of mer 
chandise, and men knew not its value. The Son 
of God was desirous of it. He came down from 
heaven to make it His own, and so render it precious 
to us by His choice. Adorn thy bridal-chamber, 
O Sion, devout soul, but with humility, but with 
poverty. These are the swathing-bands that please 
our Infant Jesus ; these are the rich robes in which 
Mary tells us He loves to be clothed. Sacrifice to 
thy God the abominations of the Egyptians. 

Remember, too, that it is in Bethlehem of Juda 
that Jesus is born ; and be very careful lest you 
fail to be found there, lest He fail to be received 
by you. Bethlehem is the house of bread ; Juda 
signifies confession or praise. If, then, you replenish 
your soul with the food of the Divine Word, the 
Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, and devoutly receive 
the Bread which came down from heaven, and which 
giveth life to the world ; if the vessel of your body 
is made strong and able to hold the new wine by 
being refreshed and strengthened with His new 
and glorified flesh ; if, moreover, you live by faith, 
and have no need to weep because you have forgotten 
to eat your bread, then, indeed, you are become a 
Bethlehem fitted to receive our Lord. 

But see that praise be not wanting. Put on 
praise and beauty ; these are the garments Christ 
1 Prov. iii. 16. 



ON THE VIGIL OF OUR LORD S NATIVITY 81 

approves of in those who serve Him. The Apostle 
commends them to you in a few words : " In the 
heart we believe unto justice ; by the mouth is made 
confession unto salvation/ 1 Let, then, justice be 
in the heart, the justice which is of faith. This 
alone has glory before God. Let confession also be 
in the mouth unto salvation, and you are sure to 
receive Him Who was born in Bethlehem of Juda, 
Jesus Christ the Son of God. 



II 

ON THE MIRACULOUS NATURE OF THE NATIVITY 

THE custom of our Order does not demand a 
sermon to-day ; but as to-morrow we shall be 
engaged longer than usual in the celebration of the 
Masses, and the short remaining time will not allow 
of a long sermon, I thought it would not be out 
of place to prepare your hearts to-day for so great 
a festival. It is the more permissible as the mystery 
of this day is so profound and so incomprehensible. 
It is a fountain of life whose waters can never be 
exhausted waters that flow the more plentifully 
the more freely they are drawn. I know, too, how 
great are your sufferings and tribulations for Christ s 
sake, and glad should I be that your comfort might 
also abound through Him. Worldly consolation is 
what I am neither willing nor permitted to offer. 
Such a consolation is both useless and valueless 
yea, it is a thing to be dreaded, for it is a true 
1 Rom. x. 10. 

6 



82 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

hindrance to the consolation which is from heaven. 
For this reason He Who is the delight and glory of 
the angels is become the salvation and the consola 
tion of all who suffer. He Who is glorious and tran 
scendent in His own city, and beatifies its citizens 
by His presence, became little and humble, when in 
exile, that He might rejoice the exiles. He Who 
in the highest heavens is the glory of the Father 
became, as a Child on earth, " peace to men of good 
will." 

A Little One is given to little ones, that the Great 
One may be given to the great, and that those 
whom the Little One justifies, the Great and Mighty 
One may afterwards magnify and render glorious. 
Hence, without doubt, St. Paul, the vessel of 
election, pours out to us the treasures which he 
had received from the fullness of this Child. For 
Christ, though a Child, is full of grace and truth. 
" In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead 
corporally." Hence, I repeat, St. Paul utters that 
good word which you have heard so often during 
these past days : " Rejoice in the Lord always : again 
I say, Rejoice." 1 Of the showing forth of the 
mystery, he says " Rejoice " ; of the promise of it 
he adds : " Again I say, Rejoice." For both the 
mystery and its promise are causes of great joy. 
Rejoice that you have received the gifts of the left 
hand ; rejoice in the expectation of the rewards of 
the right. " His left hand is under my head, and 
his right hand shall embrace me." 2 For the left 
hand raises, the right receives. The left hand heals 
and justifies ; the right embraces and blesses. In 
1 Phil. iv. 4. 2 Cant. ii. 6. 



ON THE VIGIL OF OUR LORD S NATIVITY 83 

the left hand are contained His merits, in the right 
His rewards. In the right are delights, in the left 
are remedies. 

But see how gentle the Physician is ! behold how 
wise ! Consider diligently the novelty of these 
remedies that He brings. See how they are not 
merely precious, but beautiful as well. They are 
fruits beneficial for our healing, and at the same time 
they are charming to the spiritual eye, sweet to the 
spiritual taste. 

Notice, I beg of you, that His first remedy is in 
His left hand ; this is His conception without 
human co-operation. How new, how wonderful, 
how attractive is this gift ! For what is fairer than 
the chaste generation ; what more glorious than a 
holy and pure conception in which there is no shame, 
no stain, no corruption ? 

" Behold," He says, " I make all things new." 
Who is it that so speaks ? It is no other than the 
Lamb Who sitteth upon the throne the Lamb all 
sweetness, the Lamb all happiness, the Lamb all 
unction ; for His name is Christ. O miraculous 
novelty ! The curse of Eve is reversed in our 
Virgin, for she brought forth her Son without pain 
or sorrow. The curse has been changed into a 
blessing, as the Angel Gabriel foretold : " Blessed 
art thou amongst women." O only blessed one 
amongst women ! Blest, not cursed ! Alone free 
from the universal malediction ! And no wonder 
that Jesus gave no sorrow to His Mother, since He 
Himself bore all the sorrows of the world, as Isaias 
says : " Truly he hath carried our sorrows." 1 

1 Isa. liii. 4. 

62 



84 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

i% There are two things from which our weak human 
nature shrinks pain and shame. Christ came to 
take both from us, and this He did by accepting 
both in His own person when, for instance, not to 
mention other occasions, He was condemned to 
death, and to a most shameful death, by wicked 
men. And, to give us fullest confidence of this 
deliverance, He first freed His Mother from both. 
This is an unheard-of wonder, yet we see here still 
greater miracles and still fuller glory. The Mother 
loses not her virginity, the Son is without stain of 
sin. The curse of Eve falls not on the Mother, nor is 
the Son subject to the universal calamity of which 
the Prophet speaks : " No one is clean, not even the 
babe whose life upon earth is but one day." Behold 
here an Infant without stain ! Behold the Lamb 
without spot, the Lamb of God, Who taketh away 
the sins of the world ! Who could better take them 
away than He Who knew no sin ? He, indeed, can 
cleanse me, who has never Himself been defiled. 
His touch can remove the clay from my eyes, for 
His hand is free from the lightest dust. He can 
take the mote from out my eye Who has no beam in 
His own ; or, rather, He Who has no smallest grain 
of dust in His own eye can take the beam from mine. 

We have now certainly seen the riches of salvation 
and of life. We have seen His glory, the glory as of 
the Only-begotten of the Father. What Father ? 
" And he shall be called the Son of the Most High/ 1 
" That which shall be born of thee shall be holy, and 
shall be called the Son of God." 

Oh, truly the Holy One ! Here miracles increase 
1 St. Luke i. 32. 



ON THE VIGIL OF OUR LORD S NATIVITY 85 

in number, riches are multiplied, a treasure is 
opened out. Our treasure was hidden. The incor- 
ruption of the Mother was hidden in the legal 
purification, and the innocence of the Child in the 
customary circumcision. Hide, O Mary, hide the 
brightness of the new Sun ; place Him in the manger, 
wrap your Infant in swaddling-clothes, for His 
swathing-bands are our riches. The rags of our 
Saviour are more precious than purple, and His 
poor manger is more glorious than the gilded thrones 
of kings. The poverty of Christ is greater riches 
than all this world s wealth, for what is richer or 
more precious than the humility by which heaven 
is bought and Divine grace is obtained ? " Blessed 
are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of 
heaven." And St. James says : " God resists the 
proud, and gives his grace to the humble." 1 

We see humility commended in our Lord s Nativity, 
for in it " he emptied himself, taking the form of a 
servant, and in habit was found as man." If you 
desire to find yet greater riches, yet higher glory, 
behold His charity in His passion ; for " greater love 
than this no man hath, that he lay down his life 
for his friends." These riches of salvation are the 
precious blood in which we were redeemed. This 
glory is the cross of our Lord, so that with the 
Apostle we exclaim, " God forbid that I should 
glory, save in the cross of my Lord Jesus Christ" ; 2 
and elsewhere : " I have not judged myself to know 
anything among you, but Jesus Christ and him 
crucified." 3 This is the " left hand," Jesus Christ 
and^Him crucified ; the " right hand " is t Jesus Christ 

1 St. Jas. iv. 6. 2 Gal. vi. 14. 3 i Cor. ii. 2. 



86 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

and Him glorified. Show us, O Lord, Thy right hand, 
and it is sufficient for us, for " at thy right hand 
are delights even to the end." 1 " Glory and wealth 
shall be in the house of him that feareth the Lord." 2 
What, then, shall be found in Thy house ? Oh, 
it will be thanksgiving and the voice of praise. 
" Blessed are they that dwell in thy house, O Lord : 
they shall praise thee for ever and ever." 3 "Eye 
hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered 
into the heart of man, what things God hath pre 
pared for them that love him." They are light 
inaccessible, peace which surpasseth all under 
standing, a stream of delights ceaselessly flowing. 
Eye hath not seen light inaccessible, ear hath not 
heard what is peace incomprehensible. " How 
beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel 
of peace." 4 But though their sound " hath gone 
forth into all the earth," it hath surpassed all their 
understanding to comprehend how deep is this 
peace ; they could not, therefore, transmit it to other 
ears. " Ear hath not heard it." St. Paul himself 
says : " Brethren, I count not myself to have appre 
hended." 5 But faith cometh by hearing, and 
hearing by the Word of God yes, faith, not vision ; 
the promise of peace, not its manifestation. It is 
true even now there is peace upon earth to men of 
good-will. But what is this peace compared to that 
plenitude and abundance of peace to be enjoyed in 
God s house ? Whence our Lord says, " Peace I 
leave with you, my peace I give you." 6 My peace 

1 Ps. xv. ii. 2 Ps. cxi. 3. 3 Ps. Ixxxiii. 5. 

4 Rom. x. 15, and Isa. lii. 7. 5 Phil. iii. 13. 

6 St. John xiv. 27. 



ON THE VIGIL OF OUR LORD S NATIVITY 87 

that is, the peace which surpasseth all understanding, 
and is peace upon peace. You are not able to 
receive it yet, therefore I promise you the country of 
peace, and " leave " you in the meantime the way 
of peace. 

" Neither hath it entered into the heart of man 
what things God hath prepared for them that love 
him." 1 Why cannot the thought of the good things 
God has prepared for us enter into our hearts ? Is 
it that pride lifts up the heart and grace cannot flow 
in ? It would seem so, for every proud spirit, like 
Satan, exalts itself above God. God wishes His 
will to be done ; the proud man prefers to do his 
own. What folly ! God desires His will to be 
carried out only in those things which reason 
approves ; the proud man will have his will accom 
plished without reason, and even contrary to reason. 
This is a height to which the streams of grace cannot 
rise. " Unless you be converted, and become as 
this little child," says our Lord, " you shall not enter 
into the kingdom of heaven." He is Himself the 
little and humble Child whom He sets for our Model. 
He is the Fountain of life, in whom dwelleth and 
from whom floweth the fullness of all grace. Prepare, 
then, the way for the waters of grace. Cast down 
the heights of earthly and proud thoughts. Be 
conformed to the Son of man, not to the first and 
fallen man, for the streams of grace cannot " enter 
into " the heart of the proud and carnal that is, of 
the earthly-minded man. Cleanse your " eye," that 
you may be capable of beholding the most pure light 
of faith. Incline your " ear " to the call of obedience, 
1 i Cor. ii. 9, and Isa. Ixiv. 4. 



88 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

that you may one day attain to perpetual rest and 
peace upon peace. That future life is called " light " 
because of its serenity, peace because of its tran 
quillity, a fountain because of its abundance and 
its eternity. 

We may attribute the " fountain " to the Father, 
of Whom the Son is born, and from Whom the Holy 
Ghost proceeds ; " light " to the Son, Who is the 
brightness of eternal life, and the true light enlighten 
ing every man who cometh into this world ; " peace," 
to the Holy Ghost, Who rests upon the humble and 
peaceable. I do not mean to say that these names 
are proper to any of the three Divine Persons, for 
the Father is Light, since the Son is Light of Light ; 
and the Son is Peace, as the Apostle says, " he is our 
peace who hath made both one " j 1 and the Holy 
Ghost is the " Fountain of Water springing up into 
life everlasting." 2 

But when shall we attain to these wonderful 
truths ? When, O Lord, wilt Thou fill us with joy 
by the sight of Thy countenance ? We rejoice in 
Thee that Thou, the Orient from on high, hast 
visited us. We rejoice, too, " in the blessed hope " 
of Thy second coming. 

But when shall come that fullness of joy not in the 
memory of past blessings, but in actual possession 
of the eternal joy, not in the expectation of good 
things, but in their present manifestation ? " Be 
hold," He says, " I am with you all days, even to 
the end of the world." 3 " The Lord is nigh,Xbe 
nothing solicitous." 4 He is at hand, and will soon 

1 Eph. ii. 14. 2 St. John iv. 14. 

3 St. Matt, xxviii. 20. 4 Phil, iv, 5 



ON THE VIGIL OF OUR LORD S NATIVITY 89 

appear. Faint not ; be not weary. " Seek him 
while he may be found, call upon him while he is 
near/ He is near to them who are of a contrite 
heart ; He is near to those who wait for Him, who 
expect Him in truth. 

Would you likewise know how near He is ? 
Listen to the song of the Spouse to her Divine 
Bridegroom : " Behold, he standeth behind our 
wall." 1 This wall is our mortal body, which hin 
ders our seeing Him Who is so near, and it is the 
reason why St. Paul himself desires " to be dissolved 
and to be with Christ " ; and, crying out yet more 
piteously, he says : " Unhappy man that I am, who 
will deliver me from the body of this death ?" 2 
The Prophet also speaks in the Psalm : " Lead my 
soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name/ 3 



III 

ON THE DISPOSITIONS REQUIRED IN THOSE 
WHO CELEBRATE THE FEAST 

" We have heard a rumour from the Lord, and he hath 
sent an ambassador to the nations." 4 

WE have heard a rumour full of grace, worthy of 
all acceptance. " Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is 
born in Bethlehem of Juda." My soul is melted at 
this word, and my spirit burns within me through 
eager desire to proclaim it to you. Jesus is, inter 
preted, Saviour. What so necessary to the lost ? 

1 Cant. ii. 9. 2 Rom. vii. 24. 3 Ps cxli. 8. 

4 Abdias i. i. 



go SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

What so desirable to the wretched ? What so 
welcome to the hopeless ? Without this gracious 
promise, whence should we have obtained redemp 
tion ? Unless some new and unexpected help had 
arisen for us, how could we have had the faintest 
hope of salvation, subject as we were and are to a 
law of sin, living in a body of death, surrounded by 
the wickedness of this present life, which is only a 
place of affliction ? Perhaps you will tell me that 
you do desire salvation, you do desire a cure, but 
that, knowing your own weakness, you shrink from 
the sharpness of the remedy. Fear not. Christ 
is all sweetness and gentleness. He is full of mercy, 
for He is " anointed with the oil of gladness beyond 
his fellows " that is, beyond those who enjoy at 
least a share of that unction, though they do not 
receive it in its plenitude. 

When, however, you hear that Jesus is sweet and 
gentle, do not suppose Him a weak and inefficient 
Saviour, for He is the " Son of God." Such as the 
Father is, such is the Son. He has the power to do 
whatever He wills. Had your Saviour been an angel, 
or an archangel, or anyone from the higher orders 
of blessed spirits, you would have had no cause for 
discontent. Since, however, He is one Who has 
inherited a much more excellent name than they 
Jesus Christ, the Son of God He ought to be 
received with all devotion. 

And notice that Gabriel commended these His 
titles clearly when he announced " a great joy " 
to the shepherds, for he said : " This day is born to 
you a Saviour, Who is Christ the Lord." Let us, 
then, exult and repeatedly rejoice in this birth, 



OAT THE VIGIL OF OUR LORD S NATIVITY 91 

because it so convincingly persuades us of the 
usefulness of salvation, of the sweetness of the 
anointing, and of the majesty of the Son of God 
that nothing is wanted to its glory. 

Let us rejoice as we ponder upon this sweet 
message. Let us repeat to one another this delightful 
speech : " Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is born in 
Bethlehem of Juda." Let no one be so indevout, 
so ungrateful, so irreligious, as to say : This is nothing 
new ; it was heard long ago ; Christ was born long 
ago. I answer : Yes, long ago and before long ago. 
No one will be surprised at my words if he remembers 
that expression of the Prophet, In ceternum et 
ultra, " for ever and ever/ or, " for ever and beyond 
it." Christ, then, is born not only before our times, 
but before all time. That Nativity made " darkness 
its hiding-place/ or, more truly, " it abides in 
light inaccessible " ; it hides in the bosom of the 
Father as in the " thick and shady mountain." 
Therefore, that this mysterious Nativity might to 
some extent be made known, Jesus Christ was born 
in time, born of flesh, born in flesh, " the Word was 
made flesh." 

What wonder, then, if to-day the Church says, 
" Christ, the Son of God, is born," when so long 
before it had been said of Him, " A Child is born 
to us " ! This word began to be heard in the ancient 
days, and none of the saints of the old law ever 
grew weary of its repetition. So that we may say, 
" Jesus Christ yesterday, to-day, and the same for 
ever." 

God revealed this His secret counsel to the man 
" according to his own heart " the man to whom 



92 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

" he swore truth, and he will not make it void : Of 
the fruit of thy womb I will set upon thy throne." 1 
For this reason it is that He is born in Bethlehem 
of Juda, in the city of David that is, for the sake 
of God s truth and to confirm the promises made 
to the Fathers. This birth was " at sundry times 
and in divers manners spoken of in times past to the 
fathers by the prophets." 2 

Hearing of this birth of our Saviour, is there one 
amongst us who does not say in his heart, "It is 
good for me to adhere to my God," 3 or those other 
words of the same Prophet, " Shall not my soul be 
subject to God ?" 4 In this day s most joyful 
announcement it is not said " has been born," but 
" is born " ; it is not treated as a past event, but 
as one actually taking place. " Jesus Christ, the 
Son of God, is born in Bethlehem of Juda." For, 
as He continues still to be in a manner immolated 
daily whilst we announce His death, so He seems to 
be born again while we devoutly commemorate His 
Nativity. 

To-morrow, therefore, we shall see the majesty of 
God, but with us, amongst us, not in Himself. We 
shall see Majesty in humility, Power in weakness, 
the God-man. For He is Emmanuel " God with 
us " and " the Word was made flesh, and dwelt 
amongst us." Finally, from that time and ever 
since " we have seen his glory, the glory as of the 
only-begotten of the Father " 5 a glory, therefore, 
" full of grace and truth." 6 

He is born, then but where ? In Bethlehem of 

1 Ps. cxxxi. ii. 2 Heb. i. i. 3 Ps. Ixxii. 28. 

4 Ps/lxi. i. 5 St. John i. 14. 6 Ibid. 



ON THE VIGIL OF OUR LORD S NATIVITY 93 

Juda. It would ill become us to leave Bethlehem 
unnoticed. " Let us go over to Bethlehem," say 
the shepherds. They do not say, " Let us pass by 
Bethlehem." What though it be a little town ? 
What if it does seem to be the least in Judea ? Is 
not such a town becoming for Him Who, " being 
rich, became poor for our sake," and Who, though 
He was the " Lord great and exceedingly to be 
praised," was born for us a Little One, and said, 
" Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the 
kingdom of heaven"? 1 Therefore He chose a 
stable and a manger yea, a despicable hut, a shed 
fit only for beasts, that we may know that He it is 
" Who raiseth up the poor one from the dunghill," and 
" saveth men and beasts " He Who said, " Unless 
you be converted and become as this little child, j 
you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." 2 \ 
Would that we also might be found to be a ! 
Bethlehem of Juda, so that in us also He might 
deign to be born, and that we might deserve to hear : 
" To you who fear my name the sun of justice shall 
arise." 3 Perhaps this refers to what we said above, 
that we are to see Majesty amongst us, and that 
there is need of sanctification and preparation, for, 
according to the Psalmist, " Judea is become his 
sanctification " that is, we are all cleansed and 
sanctified by confession. Bethlehem as " House 
of bread " seems to relate still more to the pre 
paration for the feast. For how could he be ready 
to receive so great a guest who said, " In my house 
there is no bread "? 4 The man in the Gospel was 

1 St. Matt. v. 3. 2 St. Matt, xviii 3. 3 Mai. iv. 2. 
4 Isa. iii. 7. 



94 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

likewise unprepared when he was obliged to rouse 
his friend in the middle of the night, and say : " My 
friend has come to me on a journey, and I have 
nothing to set before him." 

The Prophet tells us that the just man s heart " is 
ready to hope in the Lord," and that " it is strength 
ened, and shall not be moved/ 1 The heart, then, 
that is not strengthened is not ready. But we know 
from the same Prophet that " bread strengthens 
the heart of man." 2 He, therefore, who forgot to 
eat his bread had not his heart ready, but had left 
it dry and lifeless. The just man, on the contrary, 
keeps his heart ready and unmoved, prepared to 
keep the Commandments of God. Like the Apostle, 
he forgets the things which are behind, and stretches 
forth himself to those that are before. 3 Thus you 
see there are some things which we must fly from, 
and about which a certain forgetfulness is desirable. 
There are others which should never be lost sight 
of. It is said of one man that he was unmindful 
of the Lord his Creator, of another that he kept 
Him ever before his eyes, having forgotten his people 
and his father s house. This last forgot the things 
that are seen and are upon the earth ; the other 
those that are not seen and are heavenly. The 
good Christian forgets the things that are his own 
to remember those of Jesus Christ. Such a one is 
ready to see the majesty of God within him, while the 
negligent and forgetful Christian is very unpre 
pared. He is not the house of bread in which our 
Saviour dwells. He is not the Manasses to whom 
Christ, Who rules Israel, appears, and Who as God 
1 Ps. iii. 8. 2 Ps. ciii. 15. 3 Phil. iii. 13. 



ON THE VIGIL OF OUR LORD S NATIVITY 95 

" sits upon the cherubim," and to Whom the 
Psalmist exclaims, " Shine forth before Ephraim, 
Benjamin, and Manasses." 1 

I think that these three men represent all that 
are saved, and to whom another Prophet alludes 
as Noe, Daniel, and Job ; 2 and that they also pre 
figure the three shepherds, to whom the angel 
announced " a great joy " at the birth of the 
" angel of the great council." Perhaps they repre 
sent also the three Magi. In this sense, it may not 
seem unfitting to attribute to Ephraim, which name 
means "Fruitfulness," the offering of the incense, since 
to offer worthy incense in the odour of sweetness is 
the office of those whom God has appointed to go 
and bring forth fruit that is, the prelates of the 
Church. And, as Benjamin means " Son of the right 
hand," he must give the gold that is, the substance 
of this world in order that the faithful people may 
be placed on the right hand at the Last Day, and 
deserve to hear from the Judge, " I was hungry, 
and you gave me to eat," 3 and the rest. As for 
Manasses, if he would be one of whom " the Lord 
appears," let him offer the myirh of mortification, 
and this, I think, is especially required in our 
sacred profession of the religious life. 

We have digressed. Let us now return " to 
Bethlehem, and see this word that is come to pass, 
which the Lord hath showed to us." 4 It is the house 
of bread, and we have already said that " it is good 
for us to be there." For where the word of God is 
there will be no lack of the bread which strengthens 

1 Ps. Ixxix. i, 2, 3. 2 Ezech. xiv. 14. 

3 St. Matt. xxv. 35. 4 St. Luke ii. 15. 



96 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

the heart, as the Prophet says, " Strengthen thou 
me in thy words." 1 We also read, " Man liveth by 
every word that proceedeth from the mouth of 
God " ; then he liveth in Christ, and Christ liveth 
in him. In his heart Christ is born, to him Christ 
appears Christ, Who loves not the faltering, 
wavering heart, but the strong and steadfast heart. 
One who murmurs, who hesitates, who wavers in 
his purpose, who thinks of returning to what he has 
left, of relinquishing his vow, of changing his state 
of life, is no Bethlehem, no house of bread. Christ 
is not born in such a heart as this, where the fortitude 
of faith and the bread of life are wanting, for the 
Scripture says, " The just man liveth by faith/ 2 and 
Christ, the true life of the soul, dwells in our heart 
by faith. Besides, how could Christ be born in 
that heart, how could such a one attain salvation, 
when the sentence is so utterly true that " he only 
that perseveres to the end shall be saved " ? How 
could the proud and vacillating heart belong to a 
follower of the Son of God whose spirit rests only 
" on him that is poor, and little, and of a contrite 
spirit, and that trembleth at his words " ? 3 For 
there can be no connection between eternity and 
such fickleness, between him who is and him who 
never remaineth in the same state. 

But if we are strong, if we are constant in faith, 
if we are ready to receive our Lord, if we abound in 
bread, we owe it entirely to His bounty to whom 
we say daily, " Give us this day our daily bread/ 
though we have need also to add, " forgive us our 
trespasses/ for " if we say we have no sin we deceive 

1 Ps. cxviii. 28. 2 Hab. ii. 4 et seq. 3 Isa. Ixvi. 2. 



ON THE VIGIL OF OUR LORD S NATIVITY 97 

ourselves, and the truth is not in us." He is Truth 
itself Who is born not merely in Bethlehem, but in 
Bethlehem of Juda, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 
Let us, then, come in before His presence with 
praise, that we may be found both sanctified and 
prepared, and so may deserve to see Christ born in 
ourselves, His Bethlehem of Juda. 



IV 
ON OUR LORD S NATIVITY 



72 



THE FOUNTAINS OF THE SAVIOUR 

THE solemnity of our Lord s Nativity is indeed a 
great and glorious day, but a short one, and a short 
day calls for a short sermon. 

No wonder if we make a short speech, since God 
the Father has made an abbreviated Word 
Verbum abbreviatmn. Would you know how long 
and how short is the Word He has made ? This 
Word says, "I fill heaven and earth/ 1 yet, 
now that " the Word is made flesh," He is placed 
in a narrow manger. The Psalmist exclaimed, 
" From eternity and to eternity thou art God," 2 yet, 
behold ! He is a Child of a day. And why this ? 
What necessity was there that the Lord of Majesty 
should so annihilate Himself, should thus humble 
Himself, thus abbreviate Himself, except to show 
that we should do in like manner ? He now pro 
claims by example what He will one day preach in 
words " Learn of Me, for I am meek and humble 
of heart " and He does so that the Evangelist 
might be proved truthful when he said of this Word, 
" Jesus began to do and to teach." 

I therefore earnestly beseech you not to allow 
so precious an example to be set before you in vain. 

1 Jer. xxiii. 24. 2 Ps. Ixxxix. 2. 

101 



102 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

Conform yourselves to it, and be ye renewed in the 
spirit of your mind. Aim at humility ; it is the 
foundation and the guardian of all virtues. Follow 
after it, for it alone can save your souls. What is 
more deplorable, what more hateful, what more 
grievously punishable than that, after seeing the 
God of heaven become a Little One, man should 
any longer endeavour to glorify himself upon earth ? 
It is an intolerable insolence that when Majesty 
has annihilated itself, a worm of earth should inflate 
and puff itself up. It was to make reparation 
for this pride that He Who, in the form of God, was 
equal to the Father, " emptied himself, taking the 
form of a servant." 1 He emptied Himself yes, of 
His majesty and His power, not of His mercy and 
His goodness, for the Apostle tells us " the goodness 
and kindness of our Saviour hath appeared." 2 His 
power had appeared in the creation of the world, 
His wisdom has ever been manifested in its govern 
ment, but now in His humanity His goodness and 
mercy are more specially made known. He had 
shown His power to the Jews in signs and prodigies ; 
therefore you will often find in the writings of the 
Old Law such expressions as " I am the Lord," 
" I am God." To the ancient philosophers, abound 
ing in their own sense, he likewise made His majesty 
known, according to those words of the Apostle, 
" That which is known of God is manifest in them, 
for God hath manifested it to them." 3 The Jews 
were subdued by this same power ; the philosophers, 
searchers into majesty, were overwhelmed by His 
glory. Power exacts subjection, majesty inspires 
1 Phil. ii. 7. 2 Titus iii. 4. 3 Rom. i. 19. 



OUR LORD S NATIVITY 103 

awe, but neither oblige to imitation. Let thy 
goodness, O Lord, now appear, that man, who is 
created in Thy likeness, may be conformed to it ; 
for power, majesty, and wisdom are not what we can 
imitate, or what it is expedient that we should copy. 
In the case of the angels Thy mercy was withheld 
from a portion only of them ; afterwards the whole 
human race was overwhelmed by Thy judgment. 

Let mercy extend her dominion, let her reach 
from end to end mightily, and dispose all things 
sweetly. In the past, Lord, Thou didst limit Thy 
mercy by judgment ; come, we beseech Thee, now, 
flowing with compassion and overflowing with 
charity. What dost thou fear, O man ? Why dost 
thou tremble before the face of the Lord " because 
He cometh " ? It is not to judge the earth that He 
comes, but to save it. Fly not, man, fear not ; 
Jesus comes not in anger, He comes not to punish : 
He comes to seek thy salvation. And lest thou 
shouldst say even now, " I heard thy voice, and I hid 
myself/ 1 behold, He comes as an Infant, and without 
speech, for the voice of the wailing infant arouses 
compassion, not terror. If He is terrible to any, yet 
not to thee. He is become a Little One, His Virgin 
Mother swathes His tender limbs with bands, and dost 
thou still tremble with fear ? By this weakness thou 
mayest know that He comes not to destroy, but to 
save ; not to bind, but to unbind. If He shall take 
up the sword, it will be against thine enemies, and, 
as the Power and the Wisdom of God, He will 
trample on the necks of the proud and the mighty. 
We have two enemies, sin and death that is, the 
1 Gen. iii. 10. 



io 4 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

death of the soul and the death of the body. Jesus 
comes to conquer both, and to save us from both. 
Already He has vanquished sin in His own person 
by assuming a human nature free from the corrup 
tion of sin. For great violence was offered to sin, and 
it knew itself to be indeed subdued, when that nature 
which it gloried to have wholly infected and possessed 
was found in Christ perfectly free from its dominion. 
Henceforth Christ will pursue our enemies, and will 
seize them, and will not desist until they are over 
come in us. His whole mortal life was a war against 
sin. He fought against it by word and example. But 
it was in His passion that He came upon the strong 
man armed, and bound him, and bore a way his spoils. 1 

Jesus Christ also conquers our second enemy, 
death. He overcomes it first in Himself, when He 
rises from the dead, the first-fruits of them that 
sleep, and the first-born from the dead. Afterwards 
He will, in like manner, vanquish death in all of us 
when He shall raise our mortal bodies from the 
dust, and destroy this our last enemy. Thus, when 
He rose from the dead, Jesus was clothed in beauty, 
not wrapped in swaddling-clothes as at His birth. 
He that previously overflowed with mercy, " judging 
no man," girded Himself in His resurrection with 
the girdle of justice, and in so doing seemed in some 
degree to restrain His superabundant mercy in 
order to be thenceforth prepared for the judgment 
which is to follow our future resurrection. 

But Christ comes now, in His Nativity, as a Little 
One, with the prerogative of mercy, that His mercy, 
going before, may temper the justice of our future 
1 St. Luke xi. 22. 



OUR LORD S NATIVITY 105 

judgment. Although He comes as a Little One, 
the gifts He brings are not little, the treasures He 
bestows are not little. In the first place, He brings 
mercy, for the Apostle testifies : " According to his 
mercy he hath saved us." 1 Neither was it only to 
those among whom He lived that He brought these 
benefits. Christ our Lord is a fountain that can 
never be exhausted. He is a fountain for us, too, 
wherein we may be washed from sin ; as it is written, 
" who hath loved us, and washed us from our sins." 2 
But water not only washes away our stains, it like 
wise quenches our thirst. This is the second use of 
the fountain, and the Wise Man says : " Justice shall 
give him the wholesome water of wisdom to drink." 3 

The water of wisdom is rightly called wholesome, 
for the wisdom of the flesh is death, and the wisdom 
of the world is the enemy of God. The only whole 
some wisdom is the wisdom that is from God, and 
which, according to St. James s definition, " is first 
chaste, then peaceable." 4 The wisdom of the flesh 
is sensual, not chaste. The wisdom of the world 
is turbulent, not peaceable. But the wisdom that 
is of God is first chaste, not seeking the things that 
are her own, but those that are Jesus Christ s ; for, 
let no one do his own will, but consider what is the 
will of God. It is, then, peaceable, not abounding in 
her own sense, but rather yielding to the counsel or 
judgment of another. 

The third use of water is for irrigation. This is 
specially needed by young plantations and seeds 
newly sown, lest they be either stunted in growth, 

1 Titus iii. 5. 2 Apoc. i. 5. 3 Ecclus. xv. 3. 

4 St. Jas. iii. 17. 



io6 SERMONS OP ST. BERNARD 

or wither away through want of moisture. Let, 
then, everyone who wishes to sow the seed of good 
works seek the water of devotion, that, being 
fertilized by the fountain of grace, the source of a 
good life, he may not wither away, but make progress 
in continual freshness of spirit. 

Let us now see if we can find a fourth fountain, 
and win back our paradise, to be beautified, like that 
of old, by the water from four fountains or springs. 
Because if we do not desire to have the earthly 
paradise restored to us, how shall we hope for the 
kingdom of heaven ? " If I have spoken to you 
earthly things, and you believe not, how will you 
believe if I shall speak to you heavenly things P" 1 
In order, therefore, that by the manifestation of 
things present the expectation of the future may be 
made sure, we have a paradise far better and more 
delightful than that of our first parents. Our 
paradise is Christ our Lord. In this paradise we 
have already found three fountains ; the fourth is 
yet to be sought. We have the fountain of mercy for 
washing away the stains of our sins ; we have the 
fountain of wisdom, giving the waters of discretion 
for allaying our spiritual thirst ; and we have the 
fountain of grace and devotion for irrigating the 
plants of our good works. The fourth fountain 
seems to be the fervid waters of charity. Hence the 
Prophet exclaims : " My heart grew hot within me, 
and in my meditation a fire broke forth." 2 And 
elsewhere : " The zeal of thy house hath eaten me 
up." 3 So that the just man loves justice from the 
sweetness of devotion, and hates iniquity from the 

1 St. John iii. 12. 2 Ps. xxxviii. 4. 3 Ps. Ixviii. 10. 



OUR LORD S NATIVITY 107 

fervour of zeal. Was it not of these four fountains 
that Isaias spoke : " You shall draw waters with joy 
from the Saviour s fountains " P 1 And that we may 
know this promise to be spoken of the present life, 
not of that to come, mark what follows : " In that 
day, praise ye the Lord, and call upon his name." 
Invocation belongs to the present time, as it is 
written : " Thou didst call upon me in the day of 
tribulation, and I heard thee." 2 

Of these four fountains, three seem to apply 
specially to each of the three chief needs of the 
faithful. The first remission is common to all, 
for we all " offend in many things/ 3 and we have 
need of the fountain of mercy for washing away the 
stains of our sins. We have all sinned, and do 
need the glory of God," 4 whether prelates, virgins, 
or married people. 

All Christians likewise, both the penitent and the 
devout, must have recourse to the second fountain, 
that of wisdom, for all walk in the midst of snares, 
and require its guidance to enable them to decline 
from evil and do good. 

All, again, must hasten to the fountain of grace 
and devotion, that they may receive the unction 
necessary for fructifying their works and labours of 
penance and abstinence, and to enable them to act 
always in a spirit of cheerfulness, for " God loveth 
the cheerful giver." This grace we ask in the 
Lord s Prayer under the name of our daily bread. 

In all these points nothing else seems to be meant 
but that our good works are to be seasoned with the 

1 Isa. xii. 3. 2 Ps. Ixxx. 8. 3 St. Jas. iii. 2. 

4 Rom. iii. 23. 



io8 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

fervour of devotion and the spiritual sweetness of 
grace. 

The fourth fountain of zeal seems more specially 
suited to those in authority. 

These four fountains our Blessed Lord offers to 
us in His own person while we still live on earth. 
A fifth, which is the fountain of life, He promises 
to give us in the world to come. This is the water 
for which the holy Prophet thirsted : " My soul hath 
thirsted after the strong living God." 1 

Was it to signify the first four fountains that 
Christ was wounded in four places while still living 
on the Cross ? while the fifth wound in His side was 
not inflicted till after He had expired. Jesus Christ 
: offers us the first four fountains during our life. He 
opens the fifth fountain to us after our death, when 
He leads us into the possession of eternal life. 

But see how, after treating of the mysteries of 
our Lord s Nativity, we have suddenly turned to 
the mystery of His Passion. Yet it is no wonder 
that we should seek in the Passion for the treasures 
that Christ brought us in His Nativity, since it was 
in His Passion that He poured out for us the price 
of our redemption. 



II 

THE THREE COMMINGLINGS 

" GREAT are the works of the Lord," 2 says the 

Psalmist. Great indeed are all God s works, but 

the mysteries which chiefly excite our wonder and 

1 Ps. xli. 3. 2 p s . ex. 2. 



OUR LORD S NATIVITY 109 

admiration are naturally those which concern our 
eternal salvation. Hence the same Prophet sings : 
The Lord hath done great things for us/ 1 His 
munificent dealings with us are shown forth chiefly 
in our Creation, our present redemption, and our 
future glorification. O Lord, how greatly art Thou 
exalted in all Thy works ! Do Thou proclaim their 
excellence to Thy people, and let us not be silent 
concerning them. 

There is a threefold commingling to be considered 
in these three mysteries, most manifestly heavenly, 
most evidently the effect of the omnipotence of 
God. In the first of these mysteries, that of our 
creation, " God made man from the slime of the 
earth, and breathed into his face the breath of life." 2 
What a wonderful Creator, Who unites and com 
mingles things so opposite ! At His beck the slime 
of the earth and the spirit, or breath of life, are 
united, and make one being. The earth of which He 
made man had been previously created when " in 
the beginning God created the heavens and the 
earth. But the origin of the spirit was special, not 
common. It was not infused into the mass of 
matter, but is specially breathed into each individual 
of the human race. 

O man, acknowledge your dignity ! Recognize 
the glory of human nature ! You have a body 
taken from this earth, for it was fitting that one who 
is the appointed lord of all visible creatures should 
bear a similarity to them. But you are at the 
same time more noble and more exalted than they ; 
nor are they in any way to be compared to you. 
1 Ps. cxxv. 3. 2 Gen, ii. 7. 



no SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

In you body and soul are closely united ; the first is 
moulded and fashioned, the second is inspired. On 
which side lies the advantage ? Which of the two 
is the gainer in this union ? According to the 
wisdom of this world, where what is low and mean 
is associated with what is excellent, those who are 
in power lord it over their inferiors, and bend them 
to their will. The strong man tramples on him 
who is the weaker ; the learned man ridicules one 
who is unlearned ; the crafty one deceives the 
simple ; the powerful man despises the weak. It is 
not thus, O God, in Thy work, not thus in Thy com 
mingling. It was not for such a purpose that Thou 
didst unite spirit with matter ; what is exalted with 
what is lowly ; a noble and excellent creature with 
the abject, worthless clay. Thou didst will the 
soul to rule ; at the same time who does not see what 
dignity and advantage it thus confers on the body ? 
Would not the body without the soul be senseless 
matter ? From the soul it derives its beauty, from 
the soul its growth, from the soul the brightness of 
the eye and the sound of the voice. All the senses 
are animated by the soul. By this union charity is 
commended to me. I read of charity in the very 
history of my own creation. Not only is charity 
proclaimed in its first page ; it is imprinted within 
me by the gracious hand of my Maker. 

Great indeed is this union of body and soul ; 
would that it had remained firm and unbroken ! 
But, alas ! though it had been secured by the 
Divine seal for God made man to His own image 
and likeness the union was marred, for the seal 
was broken and the likeness defaced. The worst 



OUR LORD S NATIVITY in 

of thieves approached, stealthily damaged the yet 
fresh seal, and so sadly changed the Divine likeness 
that man is now compared to senseless beasts, and 
is become like unto them. 

God made man just, and of this his likeness to 
God it is written : " The Lord our God is righteous, 
and there is no iniquity in him." 1 He made man 
just and truthful, as He Himself is justice and 
truth ; nor could this union be broken while the 
integrity of the seal was preserved. But that forger 
came, and, while promising a better seal, broke, 
alas ! that which had been stamped by the hand of 
God. " You shall be as gods," he said, " knowing 
good and evil." 2 O malicious one ! O crafty spirit ! 
Of what use to that man and woman could the 
likeness of this knowledge be ? Let them "be as 
gods " by all means, but let them be upright, truth 
ful, like God, in Whom there is no sin. While this 
seal remained whole the union remained uninjured. 
Now we have a woeful experience of what we were 
persuaded to attempt by the devil s craft. The seal 
once broken, a bitter parting followed, a sad 
divorce. O wicked wretch ! where is your promise, 
" You shall not die " ? Behold, we all die. There 
is no man living that shall not taste death. What, 
then, will become of us, O Lord our God ? Will no 
one repair Thy work ? Will no one help to raise 
the fallen ? None can remake but He Who first 
made. Therefore, " by reason of the misery of the 
needy, and the groans of the poor, now I will arise, 
saith the Lord. I will set him in safety : I will 
deal confidently in his regard." 3 The enemy shall 
1 Ps. xci. 16. a Gen. iii. 5. 3 Ps. xi. 6. 



H2 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

not prevail over him, nor the son of iniquity have 
any power to hurt him. Behold, I now make a 
new mixture, upon which I set a deeper and stronger 
seal. I will give to fallen man Him Who was not 
made to My likeness, but Who is the very image and 
splendour of My glory and the figure of My sub 
stance ; not made, but begotten before all ages. 

The first mixture was compounded of two things, 
earth and spirit. The second is made up of three, 
that from this fact we may learn to contemplate 
the mystery of the Blessed Trinity the Word 
Who was in the beginning with God, and was God ; 
the soul, which was created out of nothing, and had 
no previous existence ; and the flesh, taken from 
corrupted nature without any corruption, separated 
and singled out by a Divine plan, as if it had not 
been a portion of mortal flesh ; and these three are 
united together in one Person, our Lord and Saviour 
Jesus Christ. We have in these three a threefold 
exhibition of power. What was not was created ; 
what had perished was recreated ; and what was 
higher than all was made a little lower than the 
angels. Here are the three Gospel measures of 
meal which are, as it were, fermented, that they 
may become the bread of angels, in order that man 
may eat the bread which strengthens his heart. 
Happy Mary ! blessed amongst women, in whose 
chaste womb that bread was prepared by the Holy 
Ghost Who came down upon thee ! Yea, happy 
woman ! who hid in these measures the leaven of 
thy own glorious faith ; so that by faith thou didst 
conceive Him, by faith thou didst bring Him forth, 
and by thy faith those things were accomplished 



OUR LORD S NATIVITY 113 

in thee which were spoken to thee by the Lord, and 
for believing which Elizabeth declared thee blessed. 
And who need wonder when I say that the Word 
was united to human flesh through the faith of 
Mary, seeing that He received that same flesh from 
hers ? There is nothing in the foregoing explanation 
opposed to our regarding the faith of Mary as a 
type of the kingdom of heaven ; nor does it seem 
unfitting to compare her faith with the kingdom of 
heaven, since by that same faith its losses are re 
paired. This bond of union, this Trinity in Christ, 
no human power could wholly sever. The " prince 
of this world " had nothing in Him, the latchet of 
whose shoe the Baptist himself was unworthy to 
loose. Yet it was necessary that this triad should 
in a certain way be dissolved ; otherwise, what is not 
dissolved cannot be reconstructed. Of what use are 
bread unbroken, a treasure hidden, wisdom con 
cealed ? Well might St. John weep when no one 
was found to open the book and break its seals. 
Whilst it remained closed, no man amongst us could 
attain to its Divine wisdom. O Lamb of God ! O 
truly meek Lamb ! do Thou open the book. Open 
out Thy pierced hands and feet, that the treasure 
of salvation and the plentiful redemption hidden 
in them may come forth. Break Thy bread to the 
hungry. Thou alone canst break it to them, Who 
alone couldst stand firm and^unshaken when the 
union between Thy Divine and human natures 
appeared broken in Thy passion. In this breaking 
Thou still hadst power to lay down Thy life and to 
take it up again. In Thy mercy Thou didst to a 
certain degree destroy this temple, but didst not 

8 



H 4 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

wholly dissolve it. Let the soul be separated from 
the body, the Word will preserve that flesh from 
corruption and bestow a full liberty on the soul, 
that it alone of all human souls may be free among 
the dead, and lead forth from the prison-house 
those who were bound, those sitting in darkness 
and in the shadow of death. Let this holy and 
Divine soul lay down its immaculate flesh, that by 
dying it may conquer death ; but let it resume that 
flesh on the third day, that by rising again it may 
raise us all from death to life. This has been done, 
and let us rejoice in the accomplishment of the 
mystery. By that death, death is destroyed, and 
by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead 
we are regenerated in the hope of life. 

But who shall say what is to take place in the 
third and future union ? " Eye hath not seen, ear 
hath not heard, nor hath it entered into the heart 
of man to conceive what God hath prepared for 
them that love Him." The consummation of the 
union will be when Christ shall have restored and 
given back the kingdom to God and the Father. 

To sum up, in the first mixture, where man is 
made and composed of body and soul, we saw 
charity recommended. In the second mixture or 
union, the Incarnation, humility shines pre-eminent 
in the infinite condescension of God in assuming our 
human nature, whereby He teaches us that it is by 
humility alone we can repair the wounds of charity. 

In the first union it is no result of humility that 
the rational soul is united to an earthly body, for it 
is not by any deliberate act of its own. The soul 
is immediately breathed into it by God. 



OUR LORD S NATIVITY 115 

It is otherwise in the second union, where the 
Uncreated Spirit, Himself the Sovereign Good, 
humbly drew nigh to our nature, and of His own 
will and choice assumed an unsullied body. 

From both we learn that charity and humility 
are deservedly followed by glorification, for without 
charity nothing can profit us, and without humility 
none shall be exalted. In humility, then, is laid up 
for us the perfection of the beatitude which we 
expect and long for. May we be so blest as to 
attain it ! 



Ill 

ON THE PLACE, THE TIME, AND OTHER 
CIRCUMSTANCES 

IN the Nativity of our Blessed Lord there are two 
things to be considered, both exceedingly different, 
exceedingly wonderful. The Child Who is born is 
God, the Mother of whom He is born is a Virgin, and 
her child-bearing is without pain. To celebrate 
these new wonders a new light from heaven shines 
forth in the darkness of midnight. The angel 
announces tidings of great joy. A multitude of the 
heavenly army praise God and sing, " Glory to God 
on high, and peace on earth to men of good-will." 
The shepherds hasten to find the Word that has 
been announced to them. They proclaim it to 
others, and all that hear are filled with admiration. 
Mysteries such as these are signs of Divine power, 
not of human weakness. They are as the gold and 
silver vessels, from which, on account of the 

82 



n6 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

solemnity, even the poor are served at our Lord s 
Sacred Table. 

The wise man says, " Consider diligently the things 
set before thee." 1 I may truly claim to myself the 
time and place of this Nativity, the weakness of 
His infantine body, the tears and cries of this sweet 
Little One, as well as the poverty and vigils of the 
shepherds to whom our Saviour s Nativity was first 
announced. These circumstances are truly mine ; 
for me they were planned, before me they have 
been placed, and they are offered to me for my 
spiritual food, for my contemplation. 

Christ was born in winter. He was born in the 
night. And are we to believe that His coming into 
the world in such an inclement season and in the 
darkness of night are mere casual events, matters 
simply fortuitous ? From Whom come winter and 
summer, day and night ? Other children that as 
yet have hardly begun to live do not choose the 
time of their birth ; they have not the use of reason, 
nor liberty of choice, nor faculty of deliberation. 
But Christ, though man, was nevertheless God. 
He was in the beginning with God. He was God, 
the same of Whom He is the Power and the Wisdom, 
for He is " the Power and the Wisdom of God." 
Therefore, the Son of God, in Whose power it re 
mained to do whatever He willed, when about to be 
born, chose His own time, and chose, too, what was 
most specially burdensome to a little child and to 
the son of a poor mother who had hardly sufficient 
linen wherewith to swathe Him and no cradle 
wherein to place Him. And though so great was 
1 Prov. xxiii. i. 



OUR LORD S NATIVITY 117 

His necessity, and He God, we hear no mention 
of a rich and warm coverlet for His Divine and 
royal members. The first Adam was clothed in a 
tunic of skins ; the second Adam was swathed in 
rags. Such things are not according to the judg 
ment of this world. Either Christ is deceived, or 
the world errs. But that the Divine Wisdom could 
be deceived is impossible. Justly, therefore, is the 
prudence of the flesh an enemy of God ; for the 
prudence of the flesh is death, and the prudence of 
the world is folly. What follows ? Christ, Who 
could not be deceived, chose what was painful and 
troublesome ; therefore it is the best, the most 
profitable choice, that which is to be preferred to 
all others, and whoever teaches or persuades to the 
contrary is to be avoided as a tempter and deceiver. 

Our Blessed Lord willed to be born in the obscurity 
of night. Where are they who so shamelessly and 
studiously display themselves and their actions in 
the blaze of day ? Christ chose what He judged to 
be most salutary ; they choose what He rejected. 
Which of the two is the more prudent choice ? 
Whose judgment the more just ? Whose sentence 
the more reasonable ? 

Christ is born in a stable, and lies in a manger. 
Yet is He not the same that said, " The earth is 
mine and the fullness thereof " ? Why, then, need 
He choose a stable ? Plainly that He might reprove 
the glory of the world, that He might condemn its 
empty pride. The Infant Jesus is silent. He does 
not extol Himself ; He does not proclaim His own 
power and greatness, and behold, an angel announces 
His birth, a multitude of the heavenly host praise 



n8 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

and glorify the new-born King. You that would 
follow Christ do in like manner imitate His example. 
Hide the gifts and graces you have received. Love 
to be unknown. Let the mouths of others praise 
you, but keep your own lips closed. 
I His tongue has not spoken, and, behold, every 
where He is proclaimed, preached, made known. 
These infantine members will not be silent ; they have 
another kind of language : in all of them the judg 
ment of the world is reproved, subverted, and set 
at naught. What man with intelligence, being free 
to choose, would not prefer a full-grown, robust 
body rather than that of an infant ? O Divine 
Wisdom ! Thou art manifested by Thy preference 
for what was hidden and abject. O truly Incarnate 
Wisdom, veiled in the flesh ! This is nevertheless 
what was long ago prophesied by Isaias : The 
child will know how to refuse evil and choose good." 
The pleasures of the body are the evil which He 
refuses ; affliction is the good He selects. And 
assuredly, He that makes His choice is a wise Child, a 
wise Infant. He is the eternal Word of God, for the 
Word was made flesh infirm flesh, tender flesh, 
the feeble, helpless flesh of an Infant, incapable of 
its own nature of any good work, feeling a repug 
nance to labour and hardships. Truly the Word was 
made flesh, and in flesh dwelt amongst us. 

When in the beginning the Word was with God, 
He dwelt in light inaccessible, and there was none 
that could bear that light. For who hath known 
the mind of the Lord, or who hath been His coun 
sellor ? The carnal man of His own nature perceives 
not those things which are of the Spirit of God ; but 



OUR LORD S NATIVITY 119 

now he can perceive them though still carnal, for 
the Word was made flesh. Since man, on account 
of the flesh, could understand nothing but what was 
of the flesh, behold, the Word was made flesh that 
man might be able even by the flesh to hear and 
understand the things of the Spirit. O man, behold 
that wisdom which was heretofore hidden is shown 
forth to you ! It is now drawn forth from its hiding- 
place, and is laid open to you, and it penetrates into 
the very perceptions of your nature. 

I have already said that He preaches to you even 
in His Infancy, and says : " Fly from pleasure, for 
death follows swiftly when sensual pleasure enters. 
Do penance, for the kingdom of God is at hand." The 
Stable preaches this penance to us, the Manger pro 
claims it to us ; this is the language which His Infant 
members speak ; this is the Gospel He announces 
by His cries and tears. Christ weeps, but not as 
the rest of children that is, not for the same cause. 
In other children it is from the suffering inflicted on 
their senses, in Christ the affections were the source 
of His sufferings. They suffer but do not act, for 
they have no power as yet to use their will. They 
weep from passion, Christ from compassion. They 
weep under the heavy yoke laid upon every child 
of Adam ; Christ deplores the sins of the children of 
Adam, and that for which He now sheds streams of 
tears He will afterwards pour out torrents of blood. 

O hardness of my stony heart ! Would that as 
our Lord has been made flesh, so He would make 
my heart a heart of flesh. It is what He promised 
by His prophet Ezechiel. " I will take away the 
stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them a 



120 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

heart of flesh." 1 The tears of Christ fill me with 
shame and sorrow. I was taking my pastime with 
out in the streets, and in the secrecy of the King s 
chamber the sentence of death was passed upon me. 
His only-begotten Son heard this judgment, and, 
laying aside His royal diadem, He went forth, 
sprinkled ashes upon His head, clothed Himself in 
sackcloth, bared His feet, and mourned and wept 
over the condemnation of His poor slave. I see Him 
suddenly go forth. I am amazed at the strangeness 
of the spectacle. I demand, and am told, the cause. 
What course am I to take ? Shall I still indulge 
myself and deride His tears ? Yea, if I am mad, 
if I am wanting in mind, I shall fail to follow Him, 
I shall not weep with Him that weeps. Behold, 
whence comes my shame, whence is my sorrow, 
whence my fear ? From the consideration of the 
remedy I may estimate the gravity of the danger. 
I knew it not. I thought my self in health, and lo ! 
the Son of the Virgin is sent, the Son of the Most 
High God is sent, and it is even ordained that He 
shall be put to death in order that by the balsam of 
His precious Blood my wounds may be healed. 

Understand, O man, the grievousness of those 
wounds for the healing of which it was necessary 
that Christ our Lord should be wounded. Had they 
not been wounds unto death, and to eternal death, 
the Son of God would never have died for their 
remedy. We have indeed reason to blush and be 
confounded at our negligence in respect to the 
Passion of Christ, beholding as we do so much 
compassion shown to us by such infinite Majesty. 
1 Ezech. xi. 19. 



OUR LORD S NATIVITY 121 

The Son of God compassionates man, and weeps 
over him ; man allows Him to do it, and keeps up 
incessant laughter. 

Thus, by considering the remedy, my sorrow and 
my fear are increased. If I carefully observe the 
injunctions of my Physician, they will afford me 
consolation. For, though I recognize the grievous- 
ness of the disease for the cure of which such severe 
remedies were needed, from the very fact of their 
existence I conjecture that my disease is not in 
curable. The wise Physician would not apply such 
costly remedies in a hopeless case, for the very 
reason that He is a wise Physician yea, Wisdom 
itself. Neither would He apply such remedies to a 
case easily curable without them, still less in one 
where cure was impossible. This hope in our Divine 
Physician s power and goodness excites us to 
penance, and enkindles in us the most ardent desire 
of virtue. This is the same consolation that the visit 
and discourse of the angels gave to the shepherds 
in their midnight vigils. Woe to you rich, for you 
have your consolation here ; you do not deserve to 
have that which is heavenly. How many men noble 
according to family rank ; how many of the powerful 
and wise of this world, were at that hour stretched 
restfully on their soft beds, not one of them being 
found worthy to behold the new and glorious light, 
to share in the " great joy," to hear the angels sing, 
" Glory to God on high " ! 

This teaches us that those who are not engaged in 
some useful labour or employment are not worthy 
to be visited by angels, and that labour undertaken 
with a pure intention is pleasing to the citizens of 



122 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

heaven. Indeed, they have been known to hold 
converse, and such happy converse, with the poor 
and laborious. Is it not, moreover, God s own law 
that man should earn his support by his own labour 
and exertions ? 

Let me, then, earnestly beseech you to consider 
attentively how much God has done for your 
instruction and salvation, that a " word so living 
and efficacious " may not be found fruitless in you. 
It is a word " faithful and worthy of all acceptance"; 
it is an efficacious word, no mere verbal expression. 

I, who have been speaking to you, am but a 
miserable man, yet do you suppose it would be a 
small affliction for me if I were to find that my words 
had failed to produce any good results in your 
hearts ? With how much more justice, then, will 
the Lord of all Majesty be indignant if our negligence, 
our slowness, our hardness of heart, were to make 
void and vain His great and precious labour. 

May He Who for our salvation vouchsafed to 
clothe Himself in the form of a seivant avert this 
evil from us His servants He Who is the only- 
begotten Son of God the Father, God blessed for ever 
and ever. Amen. 



IV 

ON THE SHEPHERDS FINDING OUR LORD 

OBSERVE how great is this day s solemnity, for 
which the day itself is too short and the breadth 
of the whole earth is too circumscribed. This day 
encroaches on the night, it anticipates the natural 



OUR LORD S NATIVITY 123 

dawn. It fills heaven and earth with its brightness. 
It fills heaven before it fills the earth. For the night 
was made light as the day, when in the bitter mid 
night a new light from heaven shone around the 
shepherds. And that we might know in what place 
the joys of this solemnity began to be celebrated, 
and that it had already been a feast for the angels, 
immediately there was present a multitude of the 
heavenly host, sounding forth the Divine praises ; 
and they proclaimed that it should be a day of joy 
for the people also. 

For this reason this night is considered solemn 
beyond all others, and is spent in psalms and hymns 
and spiritual canticles. And while we thus keep 
vigil, we may undoubtedly believe that the heavenly 
princes unite still in our canticles, and even anticipate 
our psalmody. 

See how many altars glitter to-day with gold and 
jewels ! Behold how the walls of churches are 
adorned with costly hangings ! Think you, then, 
that the angels will turn in preference towards these 
things and depart from men in poverty ? If so, 
why did they choose to appear to the shepherds 
rather than to the kings of the earth and the priests 
of the Temple ? Why did this same Saviour, to 
Whom belong the gold and the silver, consecrate 
holy poverty in His own person ? It cannot be 
without some special mysterious reason that the 
Saviour of the world is wrapped in swaddling-clothes 
and laid in a manger. Thy swaddling-clothes, O 
Lord Jesus, are given as a sign of Thee ; but they 
are a sign that shall be contradicted by many 
even to this day, " for many are called, but few 



i2 4 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

are chosen " ; therefore few are signed with the sign 
of salvation. 

Here I recognize and acknowledge in all truth 
the " great High Priest Jesus, covered with filthy 
garments a in His Passion, while He contended 
with the devil. I speak here to those who are 
versed in the Scriptures, and to whom the pro 
phetical vision of Zachary is not unknown. There 
we find our Head exalted above our enemies from 
the very fact that His vesture is changed. Yes, He 
has put on the stole of beauty, and clothed Himself 
with light as with a garment. He has given us an 
example that we also should do as He has done. 
When the members, following their Head on High, 
shall form but one body, then they will sing in one 
spirit : " Thou hast cut my sackcloth and hast com 
passed me with gladness/ 2 

The angel said : " You will find the Infant wrapped 
in swaddling-clothes and laid in a manger." And 
a little later the Evangelist goes on to say : " They 
came in haste, and they found Mary and Joseph, and 
the Infant lying in the manger." 

How is it that the angel mentions only the 
Infant, since that was not all that the shepherds 
were to find ? Is he recommending humility in the 
Person of the Sacred Infant ? If so, why humility 
specially ? Perhaps because his fellow-angels fell 
by pride, while by humility he stood firm. Or it 
may be that humility is thus proclaimed to be a 
heavenly virtue, because it is that most fittingly 
exercised towards the Divine Majesty. Humility, 
however, can never be found alone. It cannot 
1 Zach. iii. 1-5. 2 Ps. xxix. 12. 



OUR LORD S NATIVITY 125 

exist as a single virtue, for God gives His grace to 
the humble. Wherefore the shepherds found Mary 
and Joseph with the Infant laid in the manger. 
As humility is the virtue specially exemplified in the 
infancy of our Saviour, so chastity appears in the 
Blessed Virgin, and justice is suitably pointed out 
by the just man Joseph, so named in the Gospel. 

We all know that continence and purity are to be 
observed in regard to the flesh. Justice is the virtue 
by which we render to everyone what is his due, and 
it is necessary in our dealings with others. Humility 
reconciles us with God, makes us subject to Him, and 
renders us well pleasing in His sight, as the Blessed 
Virgin testifies. " He has had regard to the humility 
of his handmaid." So that by impurity we sin 
against ourselves ; by injustice against our neigh 
bour ; by pride and self-exaltation against God. 
The unchaste man dishonours himself ; the unjust 
man is burdensome to his neighbour ; the proud 
man, as far as in him lies, dishonours God. God 
has said : " I will not give my glory to another." 
The proud soul says : " As you will not give it to 
me, I will usurp it." Consequently such a one 
cannot relish the distribution by the angel, of 
giving " glory to God, and on earth peace to men 
of good-will." The proud man does not worship 
God, but impiously and faithlessly lifts himself up 
against Him. What is piety but the worship of 
God ? And who pays true homage to God but the 
man that is willingly subject to Him ? As the eyes 
of the servant are on the hands of his master, so are 
the eyes of the just man ever directed towards the 
Lord his God. 



126 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

Therefore, let Mary and Joseph and the Infant 
be always found in us, that we may live soberly 
and justly and piously in this world. For it is for 
this purpose that the grace of God our Saviour hath 
appeared instructing us ; and it is by the exercise 
of the virtues we have mentioned that His glory 
will appear. The Apostle says : " The grace of God 
hath appeared to all men, instructing us that, denying 
impiety and worldly desires, we may live soberly and 
justly and piously in this world, expecting the blessed 
hope and coming of the glory of the great God. 

In the Little One there hath appeared grace for 
our instruction, because He will yet be great, as the 
angel Gabriel foretold. And they whom He, as a 
Little One, shall have instructed in humility and 
meekness of heart, He will afterwards exalt and 
glorify, when He shall come as great and glorious, 
Jesus Christ our Lord for ever. Amen. 



ON THE WORDS " BLESSED BE THE GOD AND 
FATHER OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST" 

" Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus 
Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all consolations, 
who comforts us in all our tribulations." 1 

BLESSED be He Who, in the exceeding charity 
wherewith He has loved us, has sent His beloved 
Son, in Whom He is well pleased ; by Whom, being 
reconciled, we have peace with God ; and Who is at 
1 2 Cor. i. 3, 4. 



OUR LORD S NATIVITY 127 

once our Mediator and the pledge of our reconcilia 
tion. Under so powerful a Mediator there is no 
ground for doubt ; under so merciful a Protector 
we have no cause for fear. But, you will say, what 
sort of a Mediator is He Who is born in a stable, 
laid in a manger, and wrapped in swaddling-clothes 
as other children, Who weeps as other children, and 
lies before us subject to all the needs of infancy ? I 
answer, He is a Mediator great in all things that 
appertain to our peace. He seeks that peace not 
perfunctorily or carelessly, but sincerely and effica 
ciously. 

An Infant He truly is, but the Word an Infant 
whose very childhood speaks more powerfully than 
the most eloquent discourse. " Be comforted, be. 
comforted, my people, saith the Lord your God/ 1 
saith our Emmanuel, our God with us. The stable 
proclaims it, the manger proclaims it, His tears and 
His swathing-bands proclaim it. The stable declares 
that He is preparing to cure the man that fell among 
robbers ; His manger tells us that He will minister 
food to him that was compared to beasts, and made 
like unto them. His tears and His swaddling- 
clothes cry out that He will wash and cleanse man s 
wounds. Christ needed not any of these things for 
Himself. All were for His elect. They will 
reverence My Son," says the Father of mercies. 
Yes, they will indeed reverence Him ; but who are 
they who will render this homage ? Not the Jews, 
to whom He was sent, but the elect, for whose sake 
He was sent. We will reverence Him in His manger, 
we will reverence Him on His cross, we will reverence 
1 Isa. xl. i. 



128 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

Him in His sepulchre. We will receive devoutly 
Him Who is a feeble Infant for our sakes, Who was 
pallid in death for us, and Who was buried for us. 
With the Magi we will devoutly adore Him, with 
holy Simeon we will embrace the Infant Saviour, and 
so we shall " receive thy mercy, O God, in the midst 
of thy temple." Because this is He of Whom we 
read, " The mercy of the Lord is from eternity," for 
who is co-eternal with the Father unless the Son 
and the Holy Ghost ? And these Divine Persons are 
not so much merciful as mercy itself. The Father 
is mercy, and the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are 
but one mercy, as they are one Essence, one Wisdom, 
one Deity, one Majesty. 

But as God the Father is called the Father of 
Mercies, who does not see that He thus points out 
His Son by an appropriate name ? Justly is He 
called the Father of Mercies, whose property it is to 
have mercy and to spare. 

But some may object : How can it be His property 
to have mercy, since " his judgments are a great 
deep " ? x It is not said that His ways are mercy only, 
but that they are mercy and truth. 2 He is not less 
just than merciful, and He is praised for mercy and 
judgment. It is true He will have mercy on whom 
He will have mercy, and whom He wills He will 
harden. Yet since His property is to have mercy, 
He draws from Himself the matter and cause for 
mercy ; the cause for judgment He finds in us, for 
mercy seems far nearer to His heart than condem 
nation. " Is it my will," he says, " that a sinner 
should die, and not rather that he should be con- 
1 Ps. xxxv. 7. 2 Ps. xxiv. 10. 



OUR LORD S NATIVITY 129 

verted and live ?" Justly, therefore, He is called 
the Father, not of judgment, but of mercy. And 
this not only because a father is readier to have 
mercy than to show indignation, but also because 
as a Father He has compassion on the children that 
fear Him, and because to have compassion is a 
property inherent in Him, for He is the cause and 
source of mercy. 

But if on this account God is the Father of mercy, 
why is He called the Father of met ties ? God once 
said : " These two things have I heard, that power 
belongeth to God, and mercy to thee, O Lord." 1 
Moreover, the Apostle commends to us this same 
mercy as manifold, calling God the Father not of 
one mercy, but of " mercies " ; not of one consolation, 
but of " all consolation " ; Who comforts us not in 
this tribulation or that, but in all our tribulations. 
The mercies of the Lord are many, says the Prophet. 
They are many ; for many are the tribulations of the 
just, and out of them all the Lord will deliver them. 
The Son of God is One, the Word of God is one ; but 
our misery is manifold, and demands not only great 
mercy, but a multitude of mercies. 

Perhaps, on account of the two substances, spirit 
and matter, which make up our human nature, and 
each of which is subject to many troubles, man s 
misery may be said to be multiplied, as well in body 
as in soul. In truth, our tribulations, both of body 
and soul, are multiplied, but from the necessities 
of both we are delivered by Him Who saves the 
whole man. Since, then, the One and Only Son of 
God is now come for the salvation of our souls that 
1 Ps. ixi. 12. 



I 3 o SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

is, to take away the sins of the world and His second 
coming will be to raise up our bodies and make them 
conformable to the body of His glory, it is not sur 
prising if we confess in Him this twofold mercy and 
bless Him as Father of mercies. 

When the Son of God assumed our nature, and 
took both a body and a soul, He said not once only, 
" Be comforted," but, as you saw above, the con 
solation is repeated : " Be comforted, be comforted, 
O my people, saith the Lord your God." 1 This 
repetition is to assure us that He Who disdained 
not to receive both a body and a soul will work out 
the salvation of both in us. But as He will not 
save all indiscriminately, in whom will He effect 
this salvation ? In " his people " certainly, for it 
is said, " he will save his people from their sins." 
Likewise, hereafter, He will not make all bodies like 
to the " body of his glory," but only the bodies of 
the humble. He will comfort His people. He will 
save a humble people ; but the proud He will bring 
low. 

j* Would you know who are His people ? To 
thee," says the man according to God s own heart 
" to thee the poor man is left." Jesus Himself says 
in the Gospel, " Woe to you rich, for you have now 
your consolation." God grant, dearly beloved, that 
we may always be found among God s people, to 
whom He does not say " Woe " the people whose 
comforter is the Lord their God. 

Who will care to offer consolation to those who 
already abound in worldly comforts ? The silent 
Infancy of Christ will not console the talkative ; 
1 Isa. xl. i. 



OUR LORD S NATIVITY 131 

the tears of Christ will be no comfort to one given 
up to worldly enjoyments ; the swaddling-clothes of 
Christ will offer no attraction to those who are 
clad in soft garments ; the stable and the crib 
will only repel the lovers of the first places in the 
synagogues. 

This universal consolation of Christ will, perchance, 
be found to descend preferably upon those who 
await their Lord in peaceful silence ; on those who 
are in affliction ; on those who are poor and detached 
from the world. Let such as these hear how the 
very angels console them. It is to these, not to 
others, that the holy angels whisper consolation. 
It is to the shepherds, watching and keeping the 
night watches over their flocks, that the joy of the 
new light is announced. To them it is revealed 
that the Saviour is born. Yes, to the poor, to the 
hard-working, not to the rich, who have their con 
solation here below. It is to the poor that the light 
of a glorious day has shone forth amid their vigils, 
and the night shall be light as the day yea, it is 
converted info day. " This day," says the angel, 
not this night, " is born to you a Saviour/ The 
night is truly past, the day is at hand a day of days, 
the day of the salvation of our God, Jesus Christ 
our Lord, Who is God blessed above all for ever 
more. Amen. 



92 



V 
ON THE CIRCUMCISION 



ON THE CIRCUMCISION 

" After eight days were accomplished that the child 
should be circumcised, his name was called Jesus." 1 

IN these few words we have heard the great sacra 
ment of piety set forth. We have heard the abbre 
viated Word which the Lord has revealed upon the 
earth. For He was " abbreviated " in taking flesh, 
and is still further " abbreviated " in receiving the 
circumcision of the flesh. In clothing Himself with 
human nature, the Son of God was made a little 
lower than the angels ; but now that He does not 
disdain to submit to the remedy of human corrup 
tion, He is clearly made much lower than they. 
Here is a great teaching of faith, a manifest example 
of humility. 

To what end could circumcision serve Him, Who 
had neither contracted sin nor committed it ? That 
He had not committed sin His age is a proof ; that 
He had not contracted it is manifest from the 
Divinity of His Father and the integrity of His 
Mother. He is the High Priest Who " neither for 
father nor mother shall be defiled "; 2 and these 
words of Scripture are rather a prophecy of Him 
than a command of the law. His Father is from 
eternity, and He Himself is God, upon Whom no 
1 St. Luke ii. 21. 2 Lev. xxi. n. 



136 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

sin can fall. His Mother is of time, but she is a 
Virgin ; and incorruption could not yield corrup 
tion. 

Notwithstanding all this, the Child, the Lamb 
without spot, is circumcised. Though He stood in 
no need of circumcision, He willed to submit to that 
humiliating ceremony. Though He was without 
wounds, He shrank not from binding up our wounds. 
This is not the way the impious act ; it is not thus 
with the perversity of human pride. We glory 
in our wounds, and blush to have them bound up 
and healed ; while He Whom no man can convince 
of sin is the remedy of sin, and, without any neces 
sity on His own part, receives both its shame and 
its punishment, and submits to the sacrificial knife. 
We, on the contrary, though shameless in sins, 
blush to do penance for them, and this is the excess 
of folly. It is a misery to be prone to sins ; it is a 
greater one to be ashamed of their remedy. He 
that " did no sin " disdained not to be reputed a 
sinner ; we are willing to be sinners, but not to be 
reputed as such. 

In this mystery we see Him Who is in health 
taking the medicine intended for the sick, submitting 
to the remedy which they refuse. 

" And after eight days were accomplished that the 
child should be circumcised, his name was called 
Jesus." 

O great and wonderful sacrament ! The Child 
was circumcised and called Jesus. What connec 
tion does the Evangelist wish to show between these 
two facts ? Circumcision would seem to belong 
more properly to the saved than to the Saviour. It 



ON THE CIRCUMCISION 137 

was more befitting Him Who was the great High 
Priest to perform the rite to others than to submit 
to it Himself. He allowed it to be administered to 
Him in order to teach us that He is the Mediator 
between God and man, Who by His Nativity united 
His Divinity to our human nature what is highest 
to what is lowliest. 

He was born of a woman, but of a woman in 
whom the flower of virginity flourished together 
with the fruit of fecundity. He was wrapped in 
swaddling-clothes, but He was honoured with the 
praises of the angelic host. He lay in an obscure 
manger, but a radiant star from heaven pointed 
Him out. In like manner, by undergoing the rite 
of circumcision, He gave further proof of His human 
nature, but the adorable name of Jesus which He 
then received is above every other name, and 
declares the glory of His majesty. He was circum 
cised as a true son of Abraham ; as Son of God He 
is called Jesus. This my Jesus bears not, as others 
do, an empty name ; it is not in Him a shadow of 
greatness, but the reality. Heaven assigned it to 
Him, for the Evangelist testifies that the angel gave 
it to Him. And mark the depth of the mystery. 
It was after His birth that He was called by men 
Jesus, the name which had been given Him by the 
angel before His birth. For He is truly the Saviour 
of both angels and men ; of men by His Incarnation, 
of angels from the beginning of creation. Before 
His birth the angels, who possessed the secrets of 
God, were allowed to know and utter the sacred 
name of salvation, but till this day of the Circum 
cision we knew it not. On this day it was first given 



138 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

me to pronounce confidently the blessed name of 
my Jesus, the name of my eternal salvation. Can 
we now doubt or hesitate to proclaim that He Who 
has condescended to dwell amongst us will work 
out the salvation of all those who are His own ? 

Circumcision is necessary for us also, in order 
that we may receive this name of salvation a 
circumcision not according to the letter, but one in 
spirit and in truth. After the fall of our first 
parents human nature was wholly infected with the 
venom of sin. While the human race was yet, as 
it were, in infancy as to faith and love, man received 
a commandment suited to his imperfect condition. 
When he had grown to the age of the more perfect 
man he received the command of baptism, by which 
the entire man is circumcised. In like manner 
our Saviour was circumcised in His infancy, and, in 
His perfect manhood, was pleased to be crucified 
and to endure a penalty which caused every member 
of His body and every power of His soul to suffer. 
What, then, is our moral circumcision, if not what 
the Apostle recommends, " Having food and 
raiment, with these we are content "? x The cir 
cumcision of the religious life is voluntary poverty, 
the labours of penance, and the observance of regular 
discipline. 

We should, therefore, admit nothing into the soul 
which we fear would not be acceptable to Him 
Whose Name is a name of salvation. 
1 i Tim. vi. 8. 



VI 

ON THE HOLY NAME OF JESUS 

AND OTHER SCRIPTURAL 

TITLES OF OUR LORD 



ON THE HOLY NAME OF JESUS AND OTHER 
SCRIPTURAL TITLES OF OUR LORD 1 

" After eight days were accomplished that the child 
should be circumcised, his name was called Jesus." 2 

THE eighth day is always the crowning day of the 
Church s greater festivals, and completes the cele 
bration of the principal solemnities of the year. It 
is, as it were, linked with the first or opening day 
of the octave, just as our Lord in His Sermon on the 
Mount connected the eighth beatitude with the 
first by the promise of the kingdom of heaven. 

When the Child that is born to us was circumcised 
He was called the Saviour, for it was then that He 
began the work of our salvation by shedding His 
precious blood for us. No Christian can now ask 
why Christ willed to be circumcised. For us He 
was born, for us He was circumcised, for us He 
suffered and died. Nothing of all this was for 
Himself, but all for His elect. He was not circum 
cised for His own sins, but for ours. The name He 
was called by the angel before His birth was His 
name from all eternity. This name of Saviour was 
His natural right ; it was born with Him, not imposed 

1 This sermon hasjbeen combined with one on the same 
subject, on Cant. i. 2. 
3 St.jLuke^ii. 21. 

141 



I 4 2 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

by either angel or man. The illustrious Prophet 
Isaias, predicting the birth of this Divine Child, 
calls Him by many great titles, but he seems to 
have been silent on this one name which the angel 
foretold, and to which the Evangelist bears testimony. 
Isaias, like Abraham, exulted that he might see 
Christ s day ; he, too, saw it and was glad. Re 
joicing and praising God, he says : " A child is born 
to us, a son is given to us, and the government 
is upon his shoulder : and his name shall be called 
Wonderful, Counsellor, God the Mighty, the Father 
of the world to come, the Prince of Peace." 1 These 
are indeed great names, but where is the name 
which is above all names, the name of Jesus at which 
every knee should bow ? Perhaps we may find 
that one name expressed, or poured out in all, for 
it is the same that was spoken of by the Spouse 
in the canticle of love, " Thy name is as oil poured 
out." Therefore, from and in all these names and 
titles we have but the one name of Jesus. His 
office of Saviour includes all. If one had been 
wanting, He could neither have been called nor 
have been the Saviour. 

Has not each one of us found by experience that 
He has been Wonderful in the conversion and change 
of our wills ? For is it not the beginning of salvation 
when we loathe what we formerly loved, grieve over 
what we once delighted in, embrace what we had 
feared, follow after that which we had fled from, 
desire what we had contemned ? He that has 
wrought such wonders in us is assuredly Wonderful. 

Jesus shows Himself to be the Counsellor by direct- 
1 Isa. ix. 6. 



ON THE HOLY NAME OF JESUS 143 

ing us in the choice of penance and of a well-ordered 
life, lest our zeal be without knowledge and our good 
will without prudence. 

It was likewise necessary that we should ex 
perience Him to be God the Mighty. God in the 
remission of our past sins, for none but God can 
forgive sin, and Mighty when enabling us to fight 
victoriously those sinful passions which are ever 
warring in us, and which are liable to render our 
last state worse than the first. 

Does anything still seem wanting to the office of 
Saviour ? Yea, truly, the chief thing would be 
lacking were He not also the Father of the world 
to come, so that we who are engendered in this 
world unto death may by Him be raised up to a 
glorious immortality. 

A further title and quality is required that of 
the Prince of Peace Who has reconciled us to His 
Father, to Whom He is to give back the kingdom. 
Otherwise, as children of perdition, we might have 
risen again to punishment instead of reward. 

The government, which is upon His shoulder, 
shall be magnified by the number of the saved, that 
He may be truly called the Saviour ; that there may 
be no end of peace ; and that we may know our 
salvation to be a true salvation which leaves no fear 
of failure. 

blessed Name ! O sacred Oil ! how widely hast 
thou been spread, how profusely poured out ! 
Whence did this oil come ? It came from heaven to 
Judea, and thence was diffused over the whole 
earth, to its uttermost bounds. The Church cries 
out, " Thy name is oil poured out." Poured out, 



I 4 4 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

indeed, to overflowing, since it is spread abroad, 
not only over the heavens and earth, but its influence 
reaches even to hell ; so that " in the name of Jesus 
every knee shall bow, of those that are in heaven, 
on earth, and under the earth ; and every tongue 
shall confess ia and say, " Thy name is as oil 
poured out." Behold the name of Christ and the 
name of Jesus were both communicated to the 
angels and poured out upon men. I am, then, made 
a participator in this salutary and life-giving 
name. I am a shareholder in His inheritance. 
I am a Christian. I am a brother of Christ. If 
a brother, then an heir also of God and co-heir with 
Christ. 

And what wonder that the name of the Divine 
Spouse is poured out ? In His passion He emptied 
Himself, taking the form of a servant. By this 
pouring out the plenitude of His divinity is diffused 
or spread abroad upon the earth, and of His pleni 
tude all shall receive ; and when refreshed with the 
life-giving perfume of this mystic oil they will 
exclaim, " Thy name is as oil poured out." 

But why is this name compared to oil ? There 
is undoubtedly a similitude between the name of 
the Spouse and oil, and not without reason has the 
Holy Ghost drawn a comparison between them. 
Oil gives light, nourishes and strengthens the body, 
and alleviates pain. Hence it is light, food, and 
medicine. All these qualities may be recognized 
in the holy name of Jesus. It shines and gives 
light when preached, it feeds and strengthens by 
its remembrance, it alleviates sorrow and anoints 
1 Phil. ii. io. 



ON THE HOLY NAME OF JESUS 145 

the wounds of the soul by its invocation. Let us 
consider these three qualities singly. 

How was it that the light of faith shone forth so 
suddenly over the whole earth, if not by the preaching 
of the blessed name of Jesus ? Is it not by the light 
of this name that God has called us " into his 
marvellous light," 1 so that, being enlightened by it, 
we shall see light as the Apostle declares, " For you 
were heretofore darkness, but now light in the 
Lord." 2 The Apostle was commanded to carry this 
name before kings and nations, and the children of 
Israel. He carried it as a brilliant torch, and by it 
enlightened the nations sitting in darkness, so that 
he could exclaim : " The night is past, and the day 
is at hand. Let us therefore cast off the works of 
darkness, and put on the armour of light. Let us 
walk honestly as in the day." 3 He lifted the light 
on high, and announced everywhere the name of 
Jesus and Him crucified. How brilliantly, too, did 
this light shine forth and attract the gaze of all 
when from the mouth of Peter the sacred name 
gave strength to the feet of the lame man at the 
Beautiful Gate of the Temple ! Was he not diffusing 
this light when he said to this man, " In the name 
of Jesus Christ of Nazareth arise and walk "? 4 
And to how many did he not restore sight, and 
health, and faith, by the power of this same name. 

But the name of Jesus is not only light, it is 
likewise food. Are you not strengthened and con 
soled as often as you call it to mind ? There is no 
thought that so replenishes and fills the soul with 
sweetness and spiritual joy ; no exercise so effica- 

1 i Pet. ii. 9. 2 Eph. v. 8. 3 Rom. xiii. 12. 4 Acts iii. 6. 

IO 



146 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

ciously recruits and refreshes the wearied spirit, 
and even the senses ; so repairs the inward strength, 
gives vigour to virtue, and cherishes pure affections, 
as the frequent invocation of the name of Jesus. 
All food of the soul is unsavoury to me if this oil be 
not poured upon it ; it is insipid to me if not seasoned 
with this name. If you write, it does not relish 
if I read not there the name of Jesus. If you 
dispute or instruct, it does not satisfy me if I hear 
not the sweet sound of the name of Jesus. Jesus is 
honey to the mouth, music to the ear, jubilee to 
the heart. 

The name of Jesus is, moreover, a sovereign 
medicine. If there be anyone overwhelmed with 
sorrow, let Jesus come into his heart, and thence 
to his lips, and behold, at the rising light of this 
sacred name all darkness and clouds will be dis 
persed, peace and joy will return, and the serenity 
of his mind will be restored. If there be anyone 
stained with crime, and driven headlong by despair 
to the pit of destruction, let him call upon this 
life-giving name, and he will speedily be restored 
to hope and salvation. Is there anyone amongst 
you in hardness of heart, in sloth, or tepidity, in 
bitterness of mind, if he will but invoke the name 
of Jesus his heart will be softened, and tears of 
contrition will flow gently and abundantly. In 
dangers and distress, in fears and anxieties, let him 
call on this name of power, and his confidence will 
return, his peace of mind will be restored. Doubts 
and embarrassments will be dispelled and give 
place to certainty. There is no ill of life, no adver 
sity or misfortune, in which this adorable name 



ON THE HOLY NAME OF JESUS 147 

will not bring help and fortitude. It is a remedy 
whose virtue our dear Saviour invites us to test. 
" Call upon me in the day of trouble : I will deliver j j 
thee, and thou shalt glorify me." 1 

Nothing so efficaciously bridles anger and subdues 

the fire of all unruly passions as this holy name. 

When I pronounce the name of Jesus, I represent to 
myself a man meek and humble of heart, benevolent, 
chaste, merciful, a man endowed with all sanctity, 
all graces, all virtues, and I call to mind that this 
man is Divine, is the Almighty God, Who heals me 
by His example and strengthens me by His power., , 
All manner of good things come to my mind when 
the sacred name of Jesus sounds in my ear. I 
will, therefore, make to myself a sweet and sovereign 
ointment from the virtues of His humanity and the 
Omnipotence of His Divinity. It shall be to me a 
healing balsam, the like to which no physician was 

_- ,-ever able to compound* And this electuary, my 
soul, thou hast laid up in the little vessel of the 
name of Jesus. 

Let, then, this name of power be ever in my 
heart, that all my thoughts, desires, and actions 
may be directed by Jesus and unto Jesus. To this 
He Himself urges me : " Place me as a seal upon thy 
heart, as a seal upon thy arm." 
1 Ps. xlix. 15. 



102 



VII 
ON THE EPIPHANY 



"THE GOODNESS AND KINDNESS OF OUR 
SAVIOUR HATH APPEARED" 

" The goodness and kindness of God our Saviour hath 
appeared." 1 

THANKS be to God, through Whose mercy in this 
our pilgrimage, in this our banishment, in this our 
state of misery, unto us consolation also has greatly 
abounded. For this reason we have taken care 
often to admonish you that this our distance from 
our true country should not be long absent from 
our mind, and that we should be found ever hastening 
onwards to our heavenly inheritance. He that 
knows not desolation cannot appreciate consolation, 
and whosoever is ignorant that consolation is neces 
sary shows plainly that he is not in God s favour. 

Hence it is that men engrossed in the turmoil 
of worldly pursuits are unconscious of their misery, 
and neglect to hope for mercy. But to you it may 
be fitly said, " Taste and see that the Lord is 
sweet "; 2 to you the same Prophet says, " He will 
show forth to his people the power of his works." 3 

Therefore He willed to descend upon the earth, not 
only to be better known thereon, not merely to be 
born for us, but also to be acknowledged as our 
Saviour. This recognition is celebrated and pro- 

1 Titus iii. 4. 2 Ps. xxxiii. 9. 3 Ps. ex. 6. 



152 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

claimed in to-day s solemnity, the Epiphany or day 
of manifestation. 

To-day the Magi came from the East, seeking the 
risen Sun of justice, Him of Whom we read, " Behold 
a man, the Orient is his name." 1 To-day the Magi 
adored the new-born Child of the Virgin, following the 
guidance of the newly risen star. And have we not 
here a great cause for consolation ? God spoke. They 
answered, not by their words, but by their works. 

What are you doing, O Magi ? Do you adore a 
little Babe, in a wretched hovel, wrapped in miserable 
rags ? Can this Child be truly God ? God is in 
His holy Temple. God s seat is in the highest 
heaven, and do you seek Him in a poor stable, in the 
lap of a maiden-Mother ? What are you doing ? 
Do you offer Him gold ? Is He, then, a King ? If 
so, where is His palace ? where His throne ? where 
the retainers of His regal court ? Is a stable His 
palace ? a manger His throne ? Are Mary and 
Joseph the sole occupants of His audience-chamber ? 
Are you become foolish, O Wise Men, that you can 
adore a Child, despicable alike for His age and for 
the poverty of His surroundings ? Yes, these Wise 
Men have become fools that they may be wise. 
They are foretaught by the Holy Spirit, who after 
wards breathed on the Apostle, when be said : " If 
any man among you seem to be wise, ... let him 
become a fool that he may be wise." Because, 
since the world could not through wisdom know 
God in His wisdom, it pleases God through the 
foolishness of preaching, as St. Paul calls it, to save 
those who believe. 

1 Zach. vi. 12. 



ON THE EPIPHANY 153 

Was it not to be feared that these men, beholding 
such signs of poverty, would be scandalized and 
believe themselves deluded ? They expect to find 
the King in the royal city, but they are directed to 
little Bethlehem, " the least among the thousands 
of Juda." They enter the stable, they find the 
Babe in swaddling-clothes. The repulsiveness of 
the place deters them not, the swathing-bands offend 
them not, the Child at His Mother s breast shocks 
not their faith ; they fall down and worship Him as 
their King, they adore Him as their God. And 
immediately, we may believe, He Who had led them 
thither Himself instructs them. He Who had 
spoken outwardly by the star now teaches them 
secretly in their hearts. This day is therefore made 
doubly glorious and sacred by the new manifestation 
of our Lord and by the devout adoration of the 
Magi. 

But this is not the only manifestation celebrated 
on this day ; there is a second, which, as we have 
learnt from our fathers in the faith, occurred on this 
same day, though after an interval of several years. 

When our Blessed Lord, Who according to His 
Divinity " is always the selfsame and his years 
cannot fail," had completed the thirtieth year of 
His mortal life, He came amongst the crowds of the 
people to be baptized by John. He came as one 
of them, as a sinner, though He was without sin. 
Who would then have believed Him to be the Son 
of God ? Who would have thought Him the Lord 
of Majesty ? Thou art indeed exceedingly 
humbled, O Lord. Thou art hidden amongst the 
lowest of the people, but Thou canst not hide 



154 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

Thyself from John, from him who, yet unborn, 
recognized Thee in Thy Mother s womb. Then his 
prophetic eye pierced through the double conceal 
ment ; but as he was unable to cry out to the people, 
he made known his great joy to his mother. What 
will he now do ? The Evangelist tells us. " John 
saw Jesus coming to him, and he saith : Behold the 
Lamb of God, behold him who taketh away the sin 
of the world." The true Lamb, the truly humble 
One, the truly meek One. Behold ! this is He Who 
is to be the purification of our crimes. 

Notwithstanding this noble testimony, Jesus 
wishes to be baptized by John. John trembles, and 
what wonder ? What marvel that he, a mere man, 
shudders and dares not touch the sacred head of 
his Lord and God, that head adorable to the angels, 
venerable to the powers, terrible to the princi 
palities ? 

Lord Jesus, wouldst Thou be baptized ? But 
why ? What need hast Thou of baptism ? Do the 
healthy need medicine, or do those that are clean 
require to be purified ? What has sin to do with 
Thee, that baptism should be necessary for Thee ? 
Is it for the sin of Thy Father ? But Thy Father is 
God, and who does not know that God cannot have 
sin ? and Thou art equal to Him, God of God and 
Light of Light. Is it for Thy Mother s sin ? But 
she is a Virgin conceived without sin, and in Thy 
birth she preserved her virginal integrity. What 
blemish, then, can be found in the Lamb without 
spot ? 

" I ought to be baptized by thee," says John, 
" and comest thou to me ?" The humility of each 



ON THE EPIPHANY 155 

is great, but may not be compared. How could 
man fail to humble himself before a humble God ? 
" Suffer it to be so now," Jesus says, " for so it 
behoveth us to fulfil all justice." 1 John therefore 
consented and obeyed. He baptized the Lamb of 
God, and by their contact with our Lord the waters 
were cleansed. We were purified, not He ; and the 
necessity of our being cleansed was prefigured in the 
purifying of the waters. 

Lest, however, we should discredit the testimony 
of John for he is a man, and liable to error, a 
relative, too, of Him to Whom he bears witness 
a greater testimony is added to that of John the 
Dove descends upon Christ. The dove is a fitting 
symbol to point out the Lamb of God. The lamb 
and the dove are equally the chosen emblems of 
perfect innocence, perfect gentleness, perfect sim 
plicity ; both are incapable of inflicting injury or 
practising deception. 

That no one may suppose the appearance of the 
Dove to have been fortuitous, the testimony of God 
the Father is also added. This is my beloved Son, 
in whom I am well pleased." 2 This is He Who later 
said of Himself, " I always do the things that please 
him." 3 

Lord Jesus, now at length speak to us, we 
entreat Thee. Too long yea, greatly too long 
Thou hast been silent and remained in obscurity. 
Now Thy Eternal Father s public recognition leaves 
Thee free to speak. How long shall the Power of 
God and the Wisdom of God remain hidden and 
unknown among the crowd ? How long, O noble 

1 St. Matt. iii. 15. 2 Ibid. 17. 3 St. John viii. 29. 



156 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

King, King of Heaven, wilt Thou suffer Thyself 
to be called and be reputed the son of a carpenter ? 

O humility ! O virtue of Christ ! how terribly dost 
Thou confound our pride and vanity ! I have, or, 
rather, I seem to myself to possess, some trifling 
knowledge, yet I cannot hold my tongue, but must 
shamelessly and recklessly thrust myself into notice 
only to make a display of what is rather my ignor 
ance. I am ever prompt to speak, ready to impart 
my supposed knowledge, yet slow to accept infor 
mation. Did, then, Christ fear vainglory even after 
His long silence and concealment ? Why should 
He fear the glory of men Who is the true glory of 
the Father ? He feared it not Himself, but for us, 
for whom it was very much to be feared, and thus 
He already warned and instructed us by His 
example what He would afterwards inculcate in 
word : " Learn of me, because I am meek and humble 
of heart." 1 

Concerning the infancy of our BJessed Lord the 
Gospel gives us some information, but of the years 
intervening between it and His public life it tells 
us absolutely nothing. Now, however, that His 
Heavenly Father has openly pointed Him out, He 
can no longer remain concealed. 

The third mystery celebrated on this day is the 
marriage feast of Cana. As in His first manifesta 
tion He willed to appear in the company of His 
Blessed Mother, so now at the third we also find 
her present. Our Lord had been " invited and his 
disciples to the marriage." 2 The wine failed. He had 
compassion on the confusion of the newly-married 
1 St. Matt. xi. 29. 2 St. John ii. 2, 3. 



ON THE EPIPHANY 157 

couple, and at the prayer of His Mother He vouch 
safed to change water into wine. This beginning of 
says St. John miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee," 1 
In His first manifestation He was made known as 
truly man in the arms of His Mother ; in the second 
as truly Son of God, from the testimony of His 
Eternal Father ; in the third He is proved to be truly 
God, at Whose command Nature s laws are re 
versed. These three mysteries commemorated on 
this day are so many proofs to confirm our faith, 
so many promises to strengthen our hope, so many 
incentives to inflame our love. 



II 

GO FORTH YE DAUGHTERS OF JERUSALEM 

" Go forth, ye daughters of Sion, and see King Solomon 
in the diadem wherewith his mother crowned him." 2 

OF the three manifestations of our Lord, which all 
took place on this day, though not all at one time, 
the first is the most wonderful, though the second 
and third also greatly deserve our study and con 
templation. The change of water into wine is an 
amazing miracle ; the testimony of John, the descent 
of the Dove, the declaration of the Eternal Father, 
fill us with admiration ; but the faith of the Magi 
in recognizing Christ under His disguise is indeed 
surpassingly wonderful. 

By their adoration and their offering of incense 
they confess Jesus to be God. By their gold they 
1 St. John ii. ii. 2 Cant. iii. n. 



158 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

show Him to be King as well as God. By their 
myrrh they acknowledge that His death, the sacra 
ment of piety, had been revealed to them. 

The Magi adore and offer gifts to an Infant in 
His Mother s arms. But where, Magi, is the purple 
of royalty ? Do you not see the poor rags in which 
He is wrapped ? If He is a King, where is His 
diadem ? But you do see Him in the diadem 
with which His Mother crowned Him His sacred 
body, of which He will say at His Resurrection : 
Thou hast cut my sackcloth, and hast compassed 
me with gladness." 1 

" Go forth, ye daughters of Sion, and see King 
Solomon in the diadem wherewith his mother 
crowned him/ Go forth, ye angelic hosts, ye 
citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem. Behold your 
King, but in our crown, in the diadem wherewith 
His Mother hath crowned Him ; in the sacred 
humanity He has taken from us. Until now you 
have been deprived of these delights ; up to this 
time you have not enjoyed this attractive sight. 
You have possessed Him in His Majesty, but not 
till this day have you seen Him in His humiliation. 
" Go forth, then, and see King Solomon." 

Yet the angels need not our exhortation. This 
is He on Whom they ever desire to look. The more 
fully they know His greatness, the more precious 
and lovable do they find His lowliness. And though 
His abasement is for us a greater source of joy, 
because it is for us He was born and to us He was 
given, nevertheless they have been beforehand with 
us, and have encouraged us to rejoice. The angel 
1 Ps. xxix. 12. 



ON THE EPIPHANY 159 

Gabriel proved this when he announced " a great 
joy " l to the shepherds. " And there was with the 
angel a multitude of the heavenly army." 

Therefore it is to you, worldly souls, that we must 
direct these words " daughters of Sion " ; to you, 
weak, delicate souls, daughters, not sons, in whom 
there is no fortitude, no manly courage. " Go 
forth, daughters of Sion/ Go forth from the 
carnal mind to the understanding mind, from the 
servitude of the flesh to the liberty of the spirit. 
Go forth from your country, your kindred, your 
father s house, " and see King Solomon " ; if you 
refuse, you may not safely meet Him in judgment. 
He is Solomon that is, peaceful in His dealings 
with us during our exile ; He will be terrible in 
judgment ; in His kingdom, as our reward, He will 
be our Beloved. In exile He is meek and amiable ; 
in judgment just and terrible ; in His kingdom 
glorious and wonderful. " Go forth," then, that 
you may see Him, for everywhere He is King. 
Although His kingdom is not of this world, He is 
nevertheless King in this world. When asked by 
Pilate, "Art thou a King?" 2 He replied: "For 
this was I born, and for this came I into this world." 
Here, then, He is the regulator of morals ; in judg 
ment He will be the discriminator of merits, in His 
kingdom the dispenser of rewards. 

" Go forth, daughters of Sion, and see King 
Solomon in the diadem wherewith his mother hath 
crowned him," a crown of poverty, a crown of 
misery. Because, as He has been crowned on 
earth by His false mother the Jewish Synagogue 
1 St. Luke ii. 13. 2 St. John xviii. 37. 



i6o SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

with a crown of thorns, a crown of suffering, there 
fore should He be crowned by His children and 
servants with a crown of justice. For when He 
shall come to judge with the ancients of the people, 
the angels will go forth and gather all scandals out of 
His kingdom. Then all the earth shall fight for Him 
against the wicked and unwise. But the Father is now 
crowning Him with glory, as we read in the psalm, 
Thou hast crowned him with glory and honour." 1 

Till then, behold Him, ye daughters of Sion, wearing 
the crown wherewith His mother hath crowned Him. 
Take up the humble crown of your King, become a 
Little One for your sake. Adore His humility, like 
the Magi whose faith and devotion are this day 
proposed for your imitation. To whom shall we 
compare these men ? To whom shall we liken 
them ? If we consider the faith of the penitent 
thief and the confession of the Centurion, the faith 
of the Magi seems to surpass theirs ; inasmuch as 
the thief and Centurion had had the testimony of 
many miracles, our Lord s fame had been spread 
far and wide, He had been acknowledged and 
adored by many. 

The good thief cried out from his cross, " Lord, 
remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom/ 
His faith taught him that it was by His torments 
Christ was to enter into His kingdom. The Cen 
turion s faith revealed to him the divinity of our 
Lord. When he heard Him cry out with a loud 
voice in the very act of expiring, he exclaimed, 
" Truly this man was the Son of God." 

Oh, how wonderfully keen is the eye of faith ! 
1 Ps. viii. 6. 



ON THE EPIPHANY 161 

It knows the Son of God hanging on the cross, 
pierced with nails ; it recognizes Him even in death, 
and here, in Bethlehem, with the Magi, it believes 
and confesses Him to be God, though a helpless 
Infant in the manger. What the others confessed 
by their words the Magi declared by their gifts. 
The thief believes Him a King ; the Centurion, both 
man and the Son of God ; the Magi acknowledge all 
three titles by their gold, their frankincense, and 
their myrrh. 

I beseech you, therefore, dearly beloved, to draw 
profit from the immense charity which the God of 
Majesty has shown you ; from the humility which He 
accepted ; and from the loving kindness which has 
been made apparent to you through Christ s 
humility. Let us give thanks to our merciful 
Mediator and Redeemer, by Whom the good-will of 
God the Father has been made known to us. For 
we have now so known His mind that we may truly 
say : " We so run not as at an uncertainty." 1 For 
in truth the Father has given outward expression 
to His love for us by sending into this world His 
only-begotten Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus 
Christ. 

Ill 

ON THE GIFTS OF THE WISE MEN 

"Behold, there came wise men from the East . . . and 
opening their treasures, they offered him gifts." 2 

WE seem to expect that, as on other feasts, so also 
on this day s solemnity, we should have some 

1 i Cor. ix. 26. 2 St. Matt. ii. i and n. 

II 



162 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

explanation of the mystery we commemorate. 
There are other days when we may very usefully 
speak on sin and vice ; but on festival days, and 
especially on the greater festivals, it is preferable 
to dwell on what relates to the solemnity, that the 
mind may be enlightened and the affections also 
may be aroused. For how are we to solemnize what 
we are ignorant of, and how shall we know what 
preachers have not declared ? Therefore let not 
the learned think it irksome if we comply with the 
demands of charity, and say a few words to those less 
instructed. 

This day s festival, then, takes its name from the 
apparition of the star : Epiphany means appearance. 
To-day we celebrate still more definitely the appear 
ance or manifestation of our Lord ; and not one only, 
but three manifestations, as our fathers have trans 
mitted to us. To-day our little King, a few days 
after His birth, appeared by means of a star to the 
Magi, the first-fruits of the Gentile world. On this 
day also He went to the Jordan to be baptized, and 
was there revealed to men by the testimony of God 
the Father. To-day, likewise, having been invited 
with His disciples to a marriage feast where the 
wine failed, He changed water into wine as a sign 
of His miraculous power. But the manifestation 
which took place in His infancy is the most attractive 
one, and we will consider it more attentively ; both 
because it is a sweeter mystery and the one which 
is specially taken notice of in this day s liturgy. 

To-day we have heard read in the Gospel of the 
feast that Wise Men came from the East to Jeru 
salem. With good reason did they come from the 



ON THE EPIPHANY 163 

East who announced to us the new rising of the 
Sun of Justice, they who illuminated the whole 
world with their joyful tidings. Unhappy Judea 
alone, on the contrary, by hating the light, was 
plunged into a deeper darkness by the effulgent 
brightness of the new light ; her eyes, already 
clouded, were more incurably blinded by the 
flashing radiance of the Eternal Sun. 

Let us listen to the words of these Wise Men 
coming from the East : " Where is he that is born 
King of the Jews P" 1 What unwavering faith ! 
They have no hesitation. They do not question 
the fact of His birth, but only inquire where it had 
taken place. At the mention of the word " King " 
Herod " was troubled," greatly fearing one who 
would supplant him in his kingdom. That he 
should fear is not surprising, but that Jerusalem 
the City of God, the Vision of Peace should be 
troubled with him is indeed a matter for wonder. 
Behold, how hurtful a wicked government is whose 
head seeks to bring subjects to conform to its own 
evil views ! Woe to that State where a Herod 
reigns ! It will without doubt share his impiety, 
and, like him, be troubled at the tidings of salvation. 
I trust in God that such a spirit will never reign 
among us, if, indeed, it has begun to get a footing, 
which may God forbid. It is the malice of a Herod 
to oppose and seek to stifle in their birth any rising 
efforts in the cause of religion, and to take part in 
what destroys the souls of God s little ones. To do 
so is to join with Herod in seeking to murder the 
new-born Saviour. 

1 St. Matt. ii. 2. 

II 2 



1 64 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

But let us return to the history of this day s 
mystery ; it will lead us to avoid more carefully the 
spirit of Herod. 

The Magi, pursuing their inquiries concerning 
the King of the Jews, learnt from the Scribes, whom 
Herod had assembled, the name of the place marked 
out by the Prophet Micheas for the birth of Christ, 
the Saviour of the world. Then, leaving the Jews, 
" behold, the star which they had seen in the east 
went before them." This plainly shows that when 
they eagerly sought for human directions they lost 
the Divine leading ; when they turned to earthly 
teaching the heavenly portent was withdrawn. But 
once they had left Herod and his court they were 
immediately " rejoiced with exceeding great joy." 1 
For " the star went before them until it came 
and stood over where the child was." 2 " And enter 
ing into the house, they found the child with 
Mary his mother, and falling down, they adored 
him." 3 

Whence is this to you, O holy strangers ? We 
have not found so great faith even in Israel. Is it 
possible that the mean dwelling of a stable and the 
poverty of the manger-crib do not shock you ? 
That the sight of the poor Mother and her Infant 
offers you no stumbling-block ? No, the Evangelist 
says : " Opening their treasures, they offered him 
gold, frankincense, and myrrh." 4 If they had 
offered only gold, the poverty of the Mother, and 
how to provide her with the means of bringing up 
her Child, might have appeared to be their one 
consideration. But the myrrh and frankincense, 

1 St. Matt. ii. 10. 2 Ibid. 9. 3 Ibid. u. * Ibid. u. 



ON THE EPIPHANY 165 

along with the gold, intimate the spiritual nature 
of their oblation. 

Amongst worldly riches gold is looked upon as 
most precious, and this, by God s grace, we religious 
offered to our Saviour when, for His name, we 
heartily left all the substance of this world. Only, 
having left and utterly despised it, it behoves us to 
seek and eagerly desire the wealth that is heavenly. 
In like manner we continue to offer the sweet 
fragrance of incense, which St. John tells us signifies 
the prayers of the saints. The Prophet also, in 
Ps. cxl., says : " Let my prayer be directed as 
incense in thy sight." 1 And in Ecclesiasticus we 
read : " The prayer of him that humbleth himself 
shall pierce the clouds, and he will not depart until 
the Most High behold." 2 

That our prayer may thus rise to God it must have 
the two wings of contempt of the world and mortifi 
cation of the flesh. Our offering will be a pleasing 
and acceptable sacrifice when, with gold and incense, 
we bring also our myrrh. Myrrh is bitter, but it 
is very useful, and preserves the body from returning 
to the corruption of sin. 

We have so far said a few words which may lead 
us to imitate the offerings of the Magi ; we will now 
show that each of the manifestations of our Lord is 
a proof of His Divinity. 

" And entering into the house " the Wise Men 
" found the child with Mary his mother." 

First, in His infant form which His Mother was 
fostering in her virginal bosom is manifested the 
reality of the flesh which He had assumed ; and 
1 Ps. cxl. 2. 2 Ecclus. xxxv. 21. 



1 66 SERMONS OF ST. BERNARD 

from the fact that the Holy Child was found with 
His Mother may it not be inferred that He is true 
Man and truly the Son of man ? 

In the second manifestation the voice of the 
Eternal Father " This is my beloved Son, in whom 
I am well pleased " openly acknowledges our 
Blessed Lord to be the Son of God God and Man ; 
as does also the descent of the Holy Ghost upon Him 
in the visible form of a dove. 

In the third manifestation He evidently shows 
Himself to be God and the Author of nature, whose 
laws He can change at will. 

Let us, then, with our whole hearts, love our Lord 
Jesus Christ as true Man and our Brother. Let us 
honour Him as Son of God, and adore Him as truly 
God. Let us firmly believe in Him, let us surrender 
ourselves utterly into His keeping, for He is neither 
wanting in power to save us, since He is true God 
and the true Son of God, nor in the will to save us, 
for He is, as it were, one of ourselves, true Man and 
truly the Son of man. And how could He be 
inexorable to us Who became a sufferer for love 
of us ? 



THE END 



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Bernard, of Clairvaux, 
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Sermons of St. Bernard 
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